Note: This review is from the 2015 Fringe

@ Underbelly Cowgate, Edinburgh, until Sun 30 Aug 2015 @ 16:35

Puppetry works best when it is utilised to present characters which physical actors would find difficult or impossible to portray on stage. Cell is one of the unique and brilliant theatre productions that embraces this fact and gives the audience a touching and enlightening story at the same time.

The protagonist is Ted. He is a lonely man who enjoys stamp collecting and only has a loyal pet goldfish for company. Ted is diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease and takes the bold step of going travelling before the disease takes hold of his body. The audience follows Ted on his adventure, as he meets a female travelling companion and makes the most of his life.

Cell is a collaboration between Smoking Apples and Dogfish Theatre. Together they present an original and inventive use of visual theatre that captures the audiences attention. Towards the back of the stage white screens are adopted to present shadow poetry in the style of animator Lotte Reiniger. The shadow puppets convey the locations that Ted visits and draws the audience in to Ted’s calm and beautiful world. Ted is embracing life and the puppetry expresses this in a heart warming and clever method. On his journey Ted enjoys peace and quiet and is on edge when noise breaks his concentration. Simple on stage foley effects, present the playful and antagonistic nature of his pet goldfish. These sound effects deepen the empathy we have towards Ted and also underlines the fun and expressive approach that the performers have towards theatre making.

Cell truly is a brilliant expression of puppet theatre. It tackles an important subject and it educates and informs the audience. For one hour we are taken on a journey and feel the frustrations, triumphs and love that the character Ted feels. Puppetry is becoming increasingly popular on the Fringe and Cell could be this year’s stand out show.