'Boris & Sergey's Astonishing Freakatorium' – Flabbergast Theatre | Suspense 2013
A fast-paced comedy showcase with a vaudevillian aesthetic, ‘Boris & Sergey’s Astonishing Freakatorium’ proves Flabbergast Theatre’s worth as a potent force in cabaret. The setting is like a dark circus sideshow where death and pain are mainstay ingredients in the joke pot. Thankfully, Flabbergast are so accomplished at comedy that they succeed in making these gloomy subjects fantastically funny.
The show is hosted by Boris and Sergey, who have opened their little black book of bizarre friends and invited a selection to join them on stage. For those of you not familiar with Boris and Sergey, they are best described as two bunraku puppets forged from football leather – one brown, one grey, both operated by three puppeteers each, in the traditional Japanese style.
They have no facial features yet are surprisingly expressive and draw you in from the first moment as they bicker in their Balkan accents. Puppeteers double up as voice performers and artistic director Henry Maynard is particularly impressive in upholding Sergey’s flamboyant personality throughout the show.
Flabbergast’s team of six performers are skilled and sleek, moving between different puppet characters quickly, making Boris and Sergey disappear down holes in the stage before quickly introducing new acts, while often keeping their commentary going on from beneath the stage. Flabbergast are also skilled puppet makers whose creations blend a fantastic sense of humour with sound craftsmanship.
Additional puppet stars of the show include a miniature, psychopathic convict in an orange boiler suit, who emerges from a little cage. He is nicely fashioned, with tiny steel limbs that allow him to bend and move about in a comedy dance routine. A chicken rod puppet made from potato sacks and with loose feathers flying about also adds to the magic.
Without divulging too much, standout scenes include a dramatic daredevil escape from a water tank and a spoof séance finale with audience participation. At times, I mirrored the action onstage through my own personal exploration of how humour and pain can be merged to great effect. Yes, I laughed so hard, it genuinely hurt!
'Boris & Sergey's Astonishing Freakatorium'