The Prophetic Visions of Bethany Lewis

Thu 3rd – Sun 27th August 2017

reviews

Laura Wilsmore

at 10:40 on 18th Aug 2017

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From the moment I entered the theatre, a purple puppet greeted me and complimented my hair in a thick cockney accent before I had even taken my seat. I knew instantly I was in for a late-night treat. Loveably wife Bethany Lewis (played by Katie Wells) is pelted into fame as she begins to see the future. However, this power only stems from a can of Heinz Beans crashing on her head. Her visions begin to upset those in power, and she is eventually condemned by the state. The show is a British political Sesame Street, with a mop Theresa May and a shaggy blonde-haired ‘Johnsonson’ as Prime Minister. The ability of the cast to bring to life a plethora of comical puppets is astounding. I was constantly excited to see what new furry figure would enter next. Whilst there may not have been much substance underlying the string of puns and parodies, it was an entertaining evening.

The puppets are impressive, looking as if they could join the cast of Avenue Q. My amazement grew further once I found out that the Producer (Laura Elmes) stepped in to make them last minute. Very quickly, I could not keep my eyes off the puppets as they were so charmingly animated. Katie Wells’ ability to guide the audience through the story as Beth was faultless. Emma Lundegaard’s myriad of characters were all hilariously quirky, including an ostentatious celebrity called Regretta, ‘Kunt’ the newsreader, and a Scottish hairy poop to name but a few. Luke Dunford’s portrayals of a loyal husband Gary and a crazed Prime Minister were hilarious. However, I did feel that some of his lines were shouted when they need not be to have the same impact. Nevertheless, the whole cast worked cohesively to enliven an absurd and funny ensemble of puppets. With slick technical transitions by Emilie Nutley, there was not a weak link.

Daniel Pool’s script included many hilarious meta-theatrical jokes. Jade is noted to be the couple’s ‘only friend because we didn’t have the budget for more’. Puns were stretched to their full capacity, particularly with the absurdly evil mastermind behind it all, but sometimes they did fall flat. However, Bethany’s final prophetic speech of the future she hopes for is rather beautiful, and feels particularly relevant considering our current world affairs: ‘Don’t let yourself to be driven to hatred and violence when rulers know you’re weaker divided’. At moments like this, the show delicately balances the parody and actuality of the world.

To quote one of the yellow furry fan-girls in the show, ‘Bethany Lewis is my Patronus’. Everyone can relate to the feeling of being pushed down and manipulated in a world of madness and obscenity. This show may be ‘just a look away’ from the mess of the world around us, but it was nevertheless a thoroughly enjoyable one – no strings attached.

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Claire Leibovich

at 14:41 on 24th Aug 2017

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Think Sesame Street. Think Avenue Q. Plus politics. ‘The Visions of Bethany Lewis’ is a puppet show that would have been completely successful if it had stayed in the realm of comedy.

Bethany Lewis (played by Katie Wells) has a ‘vision’ after a can of Heinz Beans falls on her head and becomes famous; ‘I had accidentally become the Messiah’. Ensues a satire of pop culture, mass media, fame-driven society, and political manipulation. The puppets were hilarious and the puppeteers excellent. The thing that I love about both of those was their expressions and mannerisms. I was amazed at how instantaneously Emma Lundergaard completely changed personality and accent (which by the way were the most believable accents I have heard so far at a Fringe play). The group worked perfectly together and the transitions between characters were completely smooth. The puppeteers worked perfectly together. I enjoyed the satire when it was directed at types of people and society at large. There will always be hypocritical, interested, weak people, or silly delusional masses who worship the first thing that comes their way. However, as the show progressed jokes were increasingly more politically aimed, with characters which implicitly represent politics like Theresa May or Boris Johnson/Trump. Personally I feel the show lost of its freshness by reminding us of the real world, and it could have sent its message while remaining completely fictional. Moreover, the big moral speech at the end was a bit heavy-handed: we should act and the world could be wonderful, only full of love and friendship, etc.

‘The Vision of Bethany Lewis’ is a feel-good show that will make you laugh to your heart’s content. The puppeteers are extremely talented and the puppets are a treat. The political side might be to your taste, yet in my opinion it was the criticism was a bit easy, self-righteous, and could have been avoided without detriment to the comedy or the moral conclusion.

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