@ Underbelly Cowgate, Edinburgh, until Sun 30 Aug @ 15:15

Puppetry for adults seems to be popping up all over the Fringe. Bruce definitely falls into this category. However, if your kids can tolerate the some bad language, then there is no reason that Bruce can’t be seen as a family show and reach a wider audience.

Weeping Spoon Productions had a Fringe hit a few years back with The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik Deep Sea Exploder. Bruce has a similar playful nature but is more mature in its approach to storytelling. Gone are the saccharine, sugary sweet, childlike characters. They have been replaced by Bruce (a hard boiled and flawed protagonist) and an array of cliched, but engaging supporting antagonists. Cliche is one of the biggest traits of the show. Bruce is a play that embraces the Hollywood tragic love story. If it was a movie it would be a Michael Bay blockbuster, tinted with a hint of Christopher Nolan science fiction.

The story begins as Bruce finds himself in outer space trying to renter the earths atmosphere. We are then given a flashback through Bruce’s life and loves and we discover how he found himself in this predicament. The story involves, time travel, science fiction, cop based drama and romantic comedy. It covers a lot of cinematic genres, but visually it has more in common with the silent comedy of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. The puppeteers do all the work. They move the story forward and involve the audience in Bruce’s plight through exaggerated gestures and hand movements.

The puppet of Bruce is basically a large yellow sponge cut in half to represent his head. He has been given two ping pong ball for eyes and his hands are expressed by the white gloves of one of the puppeteers (Wyatt Nixon-Lloyd). Its simple, effective and it works. Each character in the play takes on the same visual style (with a few augmentations here and there, especially for the evil One Eyed Joe), but what separates out each character is the voices. They are given bold and brass afflictions, so there is no mistaking who is taking centre stage.

Bruce is an enjoyable piece of comedy puppet theatre, despite the fact that the story is far too familiar to have any lasting emotion. The imagination and visceral nature of the puppetry does make it feel like a worthwhile performance and well worth a view.