This evening English table-top puppet theatre company Invisible Thread bring two short pieces to the Manipulate festival in Edinburgh. The performance comes under the name Beguiled and the audience is treated to a double bill of miniature puppetry and comedy.
Catmother is the first of the two shows presented. It is a 45 minute performance that involves a member of the audience taking over the role of Jo – literally finding themselves in control of a puppet. The story follows a typical fairy tale narrative with two naughty children discovering a strange old person who inspires them to be even more mischievous. At the start the audience is informed of the style and format of the show. Here we see the small puppet set and the intricate and expressive characters. As the show has not begun yet this actually gives some of the magic of Catmother away too early; by seeing the location and characters before the performance starts, there is no surprise when the show gets going.
Les Hommes Vides is the shorter of the two performances. It is a slapstick comedy piece that incorporates a short game of bingo. The two puppeteers introduce a pair of confused characters who use a plank of wood to comedic effect. It bears resemblance to a classic Laurel and Hardy sketch and ends up feeling a bit too predicable. As soon as the plank of wood enters the stage, it was obvious that someone was going to end up with a sore head. As the show progresses we are introduced to more puppets where comedy and slapstick ensue. When the bingo commences it slows the performance down and the audience find themselves sitting and waiting as the miniature puppets call out the numbers. It is a frustrating experience.
Beguiled is an entertaining show, but it may have felt more at home at a children’s storytelling festival. Catmother is too much reliant on fairy tale tropes and Les Hommes Vides ends up being a very repetitive and frustrating experience. The design of the puppets in both performances is undoubtedly eye catching, and does draw the audience into their miniature worlds, but this is not enough to be truly captivating and exciting.