Mark Down, director of puppet theatre company Blind Summit, welcomes the audience to what he assures them will be a masterclass, not in puppetry, but in “object manipulation”. With the aid of two black-clad performers whose faces remain masked throughout, he intends to show us the beauty of his craft, to breathe life into the inanimate.
There’s fun to be had watching Down parody the manner of ‘the director’, the master of his art, instructing his students to enter a deep ‘improvisational state’, but the show relies overly on his charisma in its fitfully entertaining first half and there’s a lot of repetitious business where the students dance about with shopping trolleys and daggers.
Only eventually does a story emerge about the director’s late father, a Shakespearean actor whom he barely knew, and his own reluctance to become a father.
Amusingly (and also a little frustratingly) there’s very little actual puppetry in the show, but when a black bin-liner suddenly takes the shape of his father, it’s incredibly striking, creating a delicate yet forbidding shape that fills the space. This coupled with the show’s use of the music of Philip Glass makes for an experience that’s occasionally oddly moving, occasionally absurd and often amusing, even if the different elements don’t quite hang together.