'Slapdash Galaxy: 3D' – Bunk Puppets | Edinburgh 2013
Bunk Puppets’ Jeff Achtem returns to Edinburgh with another one-man shadow puppet spectacular. He is an adorable presence, with neat microphone that allows him to whisper and mutter his preposterous story (two brothers on a sci-fi adventure) to us. He draws the big audience into close confidence, adding charming vocal sound effects in between the big musical numbers and some suitably slapdash scampering about.
The greatest joy of the piece comes from the classic puppeteer skill of showing the audience exactly how you’re making the magic and doing it well enough to entrance them. The shadow puppet heads that are used for the main characters have a thumb as a lower lip and some clever but simple eye mechanisms. With this alone Achtem gives their shadows a remarkable range of instantly readable emotions and reactions.
If getting audience heads in your shadow light is a familiar problem for some, it’s an opportunity taken gleefully by Achem. Bald heads become “sadly deforested” planets, more thickly-coiffed ones are jungles for tiny soldiers to battle through, or traps for unwary crashed spaceships. There’s a more extended piece of audience participation that is managed skilfully and generously. And some open-handed pieces of simple visual ingenuity – from a bubble as a puppet’s tear to a giant space cannon firing smoke rings across the auditorium – are wonderful.
The narrative – never all that crucial to a show that is somewhere between storytelling, theatre and stand-up – does flag and ends rather abruptly, while there are several scenes that go on rather longer than they might. The 3D sequence at the end is genuinely surprising – it really works, shadow alien bugs swarm towards us – but, perhaps because it is the one bit of the show where the mechanics are concealed, it palls before it is finished.
'Slapdash Galaxy: 3D'