'Immigrants!' – The Great Puppet Horn | Suspense 2013
Using a motley crew of cardboard cut out characters – including an (ad)venture capitalist, an adopted penguin, a cult con artist and a family of polar bears – The Great Puppet Horn construct a tenuous plot that allows them to riff off contemporary concerns like climate change, economics and, of course, immigration. Fast paced and flippant, ‘Immigrants!’ follows the fate of two different sets of migrants – one an economic migrant from Australia, the others refugees from the melting Arctic.
The action plays out behind two light box style screens, and is simultaneously projected onto a third bigger one, with some fun special effects added. The rod manipulated shadow puppets are simple but expressive, with some neat little devices to give them extra character. Billie the bear’s ability to switch between happy and sad eyes is a cute trick milked for all it’s worth.
The puppeteers look like they’re having great fun and don’t take themselves, or their puppets, at all seriously. When a puppet is finished with, the puppeteer will casually fling it across the stage as they race onto the next scene. This means puppets and scenery have a tendency to get lost, leading to some comic improvisation. The puppeteers’ irreverence is infectious and it becomes impossible to take them seriously in return.
Highlights include a moment when the entire polar bear family are squeezed into their tiny home, completely filling the small screen with fur and flesh; and a brief glimpse of the artist’s impression of the Planet Jersey, an off-planet tax haven imagined as a huge orbiting udder. The voices are excellent, although the wild Australian accent starts to grate after a while.
The story draws attention to the hypocrisy of our differing attitudes to incomers. Australians are more than welcome, Arctic refugees – known here as the “North Polish” – less so. But the now standard jokes and jibes about politicians and bankers are nothing new and, where ‘Immigrants!’ strives for satire, the cartoonish approach means the result is never more than silly.
The Great Puppet Horn