'The Table' - Blind Summit
Soho Theatre | London International Mime Festival
Blind Summit's new production The Table is almost three shows in one. The first slice of action sees a puppet Moses preparing to perform the last twelve hours of his life for us, in real time. What follows is an epic demonstration of puppetry introducing us to the wise and lonely character Moses in the midst of an existential crisis. There are no embellishments, no props or set, just a cardboard box puppet on a table. The table defines, contains and restricts Moses, a bunraku puppet who is expertly manipulated by Mark Down, Nick Barnes and Sean Garratt with surreal visitations from Sarah Calver.
The magic is in the puppetry, and in the dialogue provided by Mark Down, which keeps Moses' story flying along at a breakneck pace at the same time as it gives a fully described masterclass in puppetry technique, Moses effortlessly negotiating ice, wind and running machines – and combinations of all three – while still having time to mercilessly pick on Sean Garratt in a vain attempt to throw him off focus. It is an exhilarating experience.
Next, something completely different. Three gilt frames in a row display the breathtaking choreographed puppetry of disembodied heads and limbs. It's a pacey mix of impossible speed and powerful pauses. The beautifully surreal chic aesthetic does indeed 'release the story-minds' of the audience, as the lyrics of the accompanying music describe.
The third part takes a pseudo French New Wave theatre style and runs with it, telling a complex story with breathless simplicity. This time there are two tables. The four puppeteers, in leather jackets, cigarettes stuck to upper lips, assemble round a 70s style briefcase. The action unfolds – sometimes literally – from the briefcase as sheets of A4 paper with the minimalest of stick drawings are pulled out, the paper floating, bumping and sliding out of the case and into the cinematic action, like a living story board.
The movie plays out, a blockbuster of love and despair. We have empathy for our stickman anti-hero and his beddraggled with-child girlfriend. The shoot-out finale is spectacular!
The Table was a great evening of masterly puppetry. I enjoyed it all and would equally enjoy each section separately, were they longer. Encore Blind Summit!