Puppet Cabarets * (Puppet Palace unitl Sunday, March 9, 2008)

February 23, 2008

Puppet Cabarets is a nightly showcase of three to five acts by various puppeteers performing at this year’s Fringe.

I have been to very few Fringe shows like tonight’s, where audience members have exchanged glances so often, rolling eyes and wondering communally why they were at a show. Unfortunately, the mix of acts tonight was a disappointing showcase, except for a wonderful premiere of a new Australian work, by Gabrielle Griffin. Her work, Pegging Up The Sky, is actually worth 4 stars in my humble opinon – it was the odd show out tonight.

In Pegging Up The Sky, we were mesmerised by a poignant, poetic, reflective piece about an elderly woman reminiscing about her late husband. This woman is engulfed by waves of grief, and then, just as she reconciles herslef to her plight, she finds peace, as her life gently passes and her spirit/soul is released from the confines of her aged body. It was haunting, meditiative, and beautiful. It took us on a journey.

However, the night began on the wrong foot with a most woeful, juvenile, embarrassing performance by the Porno Puppets of Prague. I am staggered that such work finds an audience. Admittedly, I had put the show on my review list this year because the title is provocative and racy. But that is where intrigue is stopped dead in its tracks. The company of mature-aged puppeteers perform banal, second rate, back-of-the-school-shed, obvious material – tits, bum and willie drivel. In fact, you could go to a front bar around midnight in any pub in the world and hear banter spewed forth by drunkards that would be more compelling and entertaining.

Just in case I am sounding a litte too prudish, let me assure you that I enjoy an evening of debauched saucery as much as the next person, all I ask for is a little respect for the grey matter. In fairness, last Fringe I did visit the Bum Puppets, performed by the Puppetry of the Penis crew. I could easily transpose this review to their work! Having said that, I acknowledge they have an audience and therefore, the Porno Puppets will have theirs. It is simply staggering to realise that there is a lowest common denominator that is actually lower than that plumbed by our nightly current affairs programs, social pages in tabloid newspapers, and reality television shows.

Finally, a word of advice about the venue. When seeing a show at the Puppet Palace, sit in the front row. The seating is not raised and much puppet action seems to take place close to stage level. This means that audience members in the third, fourth and fifth rows will find much of the action obscured by other audience members.  

Read more and book tickets in the Fringe Guide