EFR - Reviews of Canon Warriors

Canon Warriors

Mon 15th – Sun 28th August 2016

reviews

Anna Livesey

at 09:54 on 18th Aug 2016

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When you think of plays that might be both funny and true, feminist puppeteers don’t immediately spring to mind. But 'Canon Warriors', a piece of new writing by Hannah Greenstreet, and a play about a pair of homeless feminist puppeteers, is exactly that. So funny, so poignant, and so brilliantly clever.

I think what I appreciate most about this play is its attention to detail. Things like the excessively long scarf that Livi Dunlop, the original of the two puppeteers, winds several times around their neck at the play’s opening, or the Peppa Pig yoghurt they eat with one finger, midway in. Across the lovely set is strewn the debris of the pair’s life: a carefully-accumulated book collection, a less- careful assortment of food, and a deckchair. Against this backdrop, and under the sensitive direction of Ell Potter, these little things cannot go unnoticed; they craft a realism that roots the zany play in a plausible human story.

This story is brought to life by three seriously talented actors. Livi Dunlop stands out as the bubbly and eccentric Punch, the funnier puppeteer of the partnership, but ultimately also its most tragic member. There is a fantastic energy to their performance, and I enjoy watching Punch’s sharp mood-swings and gradual embitterment. A naivety instilled in Dunlop’s role early on forms a nice forerunner to their eventual fragility.

Imogen Allen, as Fleur, is strong too. She is the more relatable of the duo, and Allen maintains our empathy until the close. Fleur provides a realism and contrast to Dunlop’s childlike capering. But while Punch’s enthusiastic switching of two personas, from herself to the puppet character Dog, is the highlight of the show, I struggle to be convinced by Allen’s relationship to Sid, her “slightly sardonic feline”.

There is one more disappointment. Unlike the rest of the play, which brims over with energy, the puppet show itself falls flat. Neither Dunlop nor Allen seem to commit to the performance, and much of its humour, as long overdue rewrites of the dead white male canon, is consequently lost. Without this commitment, it becomes difficult to buy into the creative dream that the pair profess to be chasing: seemingly they have already lost interest in their “politically discerning” profession.

This doesn’t stop me giving an enthusiastic four stars to this wonderfully engaging narrative, though. With three honest and convincing performances, and a concept that pulls the piece together, 'Canon Warriors' is a triumph. It is fiercely political and genuinely hilarious but, most of all, shaped by a deeply personal story. Recognition goes above all to Greenstreet, for her strikingly intelligent and original script.

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Ellie Bartram

at 14:35 on 18th Aug 2016

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‘Canon Warriors’ follows the journey of two feminist puppeteers, who face eviction from their newly established home of a beach house in Thanet. Punch (Livi Dunlop) and Fleur (Imogen Allen), with their puppets Dog and Sid, struggle to get by day to day: where Fleur works as a part-time teaching assistant, Punch longs for them to live as ‘artists, not slaves’.

There is a sense of refreshing honesty about the play that goes far beyond its witty and intelligent humour. The show offers raw insight into the depths of emotional, financial and social hardships for both humans and puppets alike. Livi Dunlop and Imogen Allen’s performances are hilariously heartwarming, unconventional and eccentric.

I, like many other audience members, become immediately attached to both Punch and Fleur, who are refreshingly funny and likeable. They convey a remarkable energy on the stage which is further reinforced through puppets Dog and Sid. Indeed, the emotional bond between all four quickly compels the audience to emotionally invest themselves in the show. I find myself especially attached to Punch’s endearing character: their childlike innocence and unwavering belief in puppetry demands a degree of admiration that renders them a highly empathetic character.

The entire show is directed with skill and precision and Ell Potter must be commended for the delivery of a focused and thought-provoking message. On the whole, it is clear that a tremendous amount of thought has been put into this production: the set is meticulously dressed with splashes of colour, ladled with a striped deck chair and a beautiful array of books beneath a wooden coffee table. This attention to detail is merely reiterated by Livi Dunlop’s comedic moments which add further depth to the mundane and everyday.

‘Canon Warriors’ is ultimately a moving performance in which puppets, Dog and Sid, are used as a means of escapism from the ‘straight talking, no puppets’ conversations of reality. The originality of Hannah Greenstreet’s writing is hilarious yet grounded: she strikes a good balance between the humorous and the harrowing as Punch and Fleur find themselves edging closer and closer to the cutting realities of heartbreak and homelessness.

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