It is the worst feeling in the world when you sit through a show and at the end you come to the conclusion, “I should have brought my nephew with me.” Not so much for my sake – I very much enjoyed it, but more for his sake: the fact he missed out on such an entertaining piece of work.
A man grunts and groans on a dimly-greenly-lit stage, tearing small pieces of foam and cardboard onto what we must imagine to be a campfire as the audience enter the auditorium and take their seats. Surrounding him,miscellaneous shapes made out of cardboard and fabric, bits of old rubbish really, hung on a washing line the length of the stage. His instruments of choice.
Jeff Achtem, the Canadian puppeteer, and quite simply the genius behind Bunk Puppet’s Swamp Juice, manages to captivate the audience in this magical journey of a grumpy man in a swamp. The pure joy of discovering that that bit of card is going to be a snail and that old glove a bird is next to none. It’s a real gem of its kind, inspiring the possibilities of everything that surrounds us.
What really does it for me, however, is his ability to broaden the medium of shadow puppetry. With each consecutive scene he inserts a new element – the puppets are able to exist not just on the stage, but on the ceiling, in the auditorium. It contains bounds of imagination, creativity, and innovation which culminates in a finale that actually blows the mind away. If I tell you about it you won’t believe it.
You have many opportunities to see this clever little show and discover the magical finale for yourself. It is touring pretty much the four corners of the UK, but do go and see it at the Soho Theatre until 5th May. It’s definitely a show that children will enjoy, with lots of funny voices and movements, but the adults are entertained as well by Jeff Achtem’s innovativeness and his theatricality.
Take your children. But be warned: some scenes might be a bit scary for viewers under 7 years of age. My 3 year old nephew was probably a bit too young to sit all the way through it, but it is a spectacle not to be missed.
Performed at the Soho Theatre.