BRUCE

Thu 3rd – Sun 27th August 2017

reviews

Charlotte Lock

at 11:26 on 9th Aug 2017

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BRUCE is an astoundingly innovative production, depicting a remarkably engaging story about love, relationships, success and sacrifice - all through the medium of a sponge. Theatre company, The Last Great Hunt, having previously had resounding success with a similar format, return to the Fringe with this characterful show. The audience follows Bruce, a character with a desire to be a police hero, as he experiences the trials and tribulations of life, with a variety of somewhat clichéd storylines invented anew.

The production entails two puppeteers, Wyatt Nixon-Lloyd and Tim Watts, who work faultlessly as a team to create an utterly absorbing performance. One controls the face of Bruce, among other characters, and the other provides a mime-esque support through being the hands of the sponge. The production was enhanced through impressive lighting and tech decisions, not only ensuring a focus on the sponge and thus obscuring the two puppeteers, but also in establishing setting, with a range of cold and warm tones effectively transforming the stage from a bathroom to a bar.

One of the most surprising elements about the show was its superb ability to capture such a range of emotion and expression through a sponge. This same sponge was skilfully used to adeptly portray a vast number of different characters throughout the show, from New Yorker Bruce to an Irish barman, among many others. The smooth transitions between different roles was particularly applaudable – Nixon-Lloyd and Watts' timing was entirely flawless.

BRUCE works to consider a variety of themes throughout the production and is particularly accomplished in its portrayal of different relationships, illustrating them through a series of repeated flashbacks. Significant moments which the audience may identify with, from marriage proposals to pregnancy announcements, are surrounded with quips and wordplay. Humour was used to lighten certain moments, however, there were some notably dark elements, with the theme of death being present throughout. These darker moments potentially went too far for some. Ultimately, this production is a genuinely unique piece of theatre, testing the bounds of puppetry and mime and bursting with humour and enthusiasm. Nixon-Lloyd and Watts’ performances are astounding and the show endlessly innovative, leaving the audience hoping for another return to the Fringe next year.

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Noah Lachs

at 13:40 on 9th Aug 2017

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If you thought that maximum pleasure available from sponge was the sensation of scrubbing your foot-soles in the shower, then think again. ‘Bruce’ is a high-octane puppetry masterpiece that will whizz you back and forth through time, stopping by heroin abuse, amongst other surprising plot devices, along the way. It is witty and visually comic, harnessing puppetry, mime skills and high-quality comic writing. Indeed its romantic ending is capable of summoning a tear. You'd be forgiven for doubting the ability of foam to make you blubber, but spend an hour with Bruce world before ruling out the possibility.

If the play is a tearjerker it is so in the most formulaic way possible. But this is not a criticism. ‘Bruce’ exploits some of the classic clichés of American film, and this is part of its joy. A cop partnership, time travel, a cautioning old man, fatherhood, and a couple that need each other but take some time to come to this mutual realisation, facilitate a pit-stop tour of your DVD collection. Bruce is both nostalgic and novel. The play’s genius is in the simple fact that its diverse narratives, and the multiple characters they include, all manifest in one giant Bart Simpson lookalike, and in two men with tights on their heads (Tim Watts and Wyatt Nixon-Lloyd).

These camouflaged men are not only remarkable for their apparent dexterity—they give life to a bouncy block of cheddar—but also for their ability to dive between personas. The eclectic accents are not just a gratuitous brag of Watt and Nixon-Lloyd’s talents, but help to effectively distinguish between characters, in absence of non-sponge physical form. Sometimes in the thick of the action, and when it is most fast-paced, one can lose track of what’s going on. When “one-eyed” Joe chases Bruce through the streets and sewers, there is a lot of noise and movement and some of the precision is lost. But for the odd lack of clarity in this regard, the execution is seamless.

Another of BRUCE’s distinguishing qualities is evident when you line it up against a wider set of adult puppetry. From Team America to Avenue Q, adult puppetry has tended to elevate profanity as its comedic vehicle. This has often hinged on the irony of puppets (i.e. figures we associate with children’s TV) saying and doing incredibly rude things. Bruce could’ve easily come out and said the C-word and made a couple of anal jokes for some cheap laughs. Instead, the content is family friendly (but for implied drug abuse) and is no less compelling in the process. Bruce is so much more than a puppet-show; indeed it is a feat of theatre to behold.

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