This wonderful show suffers only from circumstances beyond the company’s control, being situated, venue-wise, in a tent in Hill Square. That’s a tent tent with a pole up the middle of it, not a spiegeltent or other suitable-for-crowds marquee.
Left to the mercy of natural light, obstructed sight lines and limited seating, our two intrepid puppeteers from Tatwood Puppets nevertheless put on a display of marionettery like no other, with an amazing Bohemian score and a range of Czech-style wooden puppets – reminiscent of the bizarre creations of the Quay twins – who make no concession to childish cuteness and are beautifully designed and operated. There’s one-eyed Edgar who greets us with a duster as we enter the troupe’s canvas domain; a tweedy wheelchair-bound Hare who narrates a lot of the show from his bathchair; various glove puppets, shadow puppets and, absolute star of the show, Count Ocular, a Kafkaesque prestidigitator with an eyeball for a head who performs amazingly sophisticated sleight of hand tricks to a delighted audience. That’s all before the stunning finale piece when the last marionette turns the entire theatre into a giant arboretum as leaves and vines sprout from the puppet stage and engulf and entwine the audience.
If there’s any criticism to be made it’s that good old three-plus age advice in the brochure, as this show does not really cater for small children at all despite the prejudice of theatrical promoters that puppet theatre automatically equals kiddie shows. This reviewer for one is eagerly hoping that the guys will return to Edinburgh next year with a much darker show with at least a twelve-plus rating so that they can really develop their already astounding ideas and visuals and move comfortably over to the dark side where they belong.