As the theatre packed to the sound of speakeasy style music, that jivey, jazzy stuff of another era that creates such an atmosphere of smoky, sleazy anticipation, it seemed the scene was being set for what the programme's image hinted at – a naughty-but–nice, "what the butler saw", high-kicking burlesque puppet show for adults.
The first disappointment was the amount of time given to the MC, Dave Gibson. I agreed with the heckler who told him to “...get off and get on with it.” The first act was the Matthew Robins Ensemble accompanying the cleverly done but over-long episode, Fly Boy and The Robot, from his “cardboard-science-fiction soap opera” or “science-fiction romantic shadow opera”.
The young man doing the silhouette slide show carried out the task extremely well but the while the story was mad, it wasn’t mad enough to be really entertaining. Music and madness should have been Cutleresque, but it didn’t get there.
There were three films in this show. The first, Damaged Goods, Barnaby Barford’s début film, looked as though it was set in an Auntie Wainright’s junk shop and imaginatively used china figurines in clever animation.
This was a fresh new and engaging idea showing the secret life of kitsch ornaments. The porcelain hero moved with a fence gate and tree attached to him and I found it difficult to suspend my disbelief from that!
Chainsaw Maid by Takena Nagao was like Tony Hart’s Morph on acid. The programme said, “The most brutal clay animation you’ve ever seen!” and I don’t doubt it. It was VERY gory and if you’re not into gory, you won’t be entertained. Allison Schulnik’s Hobo Clown was the Beatles’ ‘girl with kaleidoscope eyes’ brought to life in this piece of clay animation where paint and putty splodges melted grotesquely on screen. The wishy -washy colours and the film’s length meant engagement was lost for this viewer. Less is more, I’m afraid.
The only actual puppet on stage was the sad and grotesque Miss Trixi. When she first appeared, I thought we just might be in for a treat along the lines of the French group, Cabaret Décadanse, but no such luck. What we got was a hideous strip culminating in wig and limb removal, which may be meant to be a comment on the sex industry which is fair enough. It was well executed, but joyless.
The programme stated that this cabaret featured “...polished live acts.” But from where I was sitting, the show seemed to have been cobbled together. It was amateurish, like a church hall Fringe show, was full of terrible jokes (the heckler was funnier) and did not live up to the suggestion of the great music played in between. To quote a member of the audience (permission given!) after the show, “I had mair fun lookin at masel in the mirror”.
Event time: Friday 5 February 2010