'It’s Dark Outside' – Perth Theatre Company & Weeping Spoon | Edinburgh 2013
In the wake of international hit ‘The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik’, Perth Theatre Company and Weeping Spoon return to the Fringe with a show featuring a similar mix of live action, skilled puppetry, film projection and shadow work, this time with an even richer emotional core.
‘It’s Dark Outside’ begins with a simple and familiar puppetry gag – an old man's world is shifted unexpectedly around him by invisible puppeteers. It’s played pitch-perfect funny here, until it climaxes in a violent and painful twist. Our hero then sets out on an epic quest through a Western-film world, netting elusive fluffy-cloud memories and facing a mysterious black-hatted antagonist.
The projection is fully integrated and never used to cheaply deliver the magic – indeed it is comprehensively out-shone technically by the live shadow sequences that use a full range of filmic techniques, panning, zooming and shifting perspective with alacrity.
The show features the sweetest puppet dog since ‘The Man Who Planted Trees’ – a concrete and fully doggy tabletop figure, expertly rendered, which then transforms and vanishes in a moment. This trope, running throughout the piece, of the play between the concrete and the imagined, the remembered and the just out of reach, thoughts strained for and running through the fingers, or heartbreakingly misunderstood, is a wonderful use of the language of puppetry.
As well as doing the familiar with unusual skill, the show has sections of brilliant innovation, including a puppet character that it would spoil things to reveal – suffice to say it’s a large object brought spectacularly to life in a range of scales.
As the old man’s memories unravel, the show gradually reveals the complex layering of metaphor, memory and identity it is built on. These are simple theatrical tools, used at the highest level of technical prowess to deliver a sophisticated and emotionally rich exploration of human experience.
'It's Dark Outside'
Created and performed by Tim Watts, Arielle Gray and Chris Isaacs