Blind Summit are known for innovative puppet work and this is certainly innovative, a departure from their usual work. Which involves puppets. The master puppeteer Luke Alexander (played by Mark Down) introduces the show by saying that there will be no puppets, that we will create the show together the show is created between us, the audience, our imagination and the objects and puppets and puppeteers. Except there won’t be any puppets…
The fringe listing suggests that the primary story is one of death and dealing with bereavement, with a consideration of the difference between puppetry and acting as a secondary consideration. In practice it is a masterclass in puppetry with the story of bereavement emerging almost despite itself.
Luke Alexander (played by Mark Down), explores the mystical power of puppetry, assisted by two, slightly sinister, masked puppeteers (Fiona Clift and Tom Espiner). He creates a warm self-deprecating character. His introduction is over long but once the master class gets underway it is fascinating to see his direction of the puppeteers (Fiona Clift and Tom Espiner) from novice to expert. They have the incredibly difficult task of having to portray their earlier selves when they weren’t expert. We gradually realise that we are no longer looking at the puppeteer but at the object, they have taken our gaze and channelled it towards the object. Seeing black bags and a shopping trolley take on a life of their own
The story that emerges of the father that Luke never knew, his race to his deathbed and the objects he inherited emerges gradually. As a plot it is thin but looking at it from the point of a man experiencing grief I felt that possibly Wood has created a subtle piece that shows how difficult it can be for men to explore relationships and feeling, that being able to express pain in an almost off hand, throwaway way, whilst engaging in the real work of life is much easier and that the exhortations to ‘talk about’ something are unhelpful and that we should provide men with more bin bags (as well as a shed) as bereavement support.
It is unusual, potentially ground breaking, and may divide audiences. It certainly won’t appeal to all of Blind Summit’s fans but is a must see if you want to see and learn something of the processes inside the making of puppet work. And Edinburgh has to be the place for such work, even if it doesn’t attract universal applause..
Henry pushes at the boundaries of what puppetry encompasses; how objects can tell stories – you certainly won’t look at a shopping trolley in the same way again.