Boris & Sergey's One Man Extravaganza

Wed 2nd – Mon 28th August 2017

reviews

Amaris Proctor

at 13:46 on 20th Aug 2017

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With strokes of largely broad comedy and a dollop of pizzaz and absurdism, the Flabbergast Theatre’s puppet masters make a spectacle of the zany escapades of a pair of Balkan brothers. If you’re unsure about what to expect from a puppet show aimed at adults, this bizarre, sprawling and incoherent extravaganza may do little to demystify you.

Clearly, the zealousness of the performers on stage reveals a passion for the unique craft, and there is something enjoyable about watching entertainers who are genuinely having fun. They seem especially adept at involving the audience. The gimmick of transforming a viewer into an actor, while not particularly original, tangibly heightened the sense of excitement in the room. In general, the most sophisticated material was derived from metatheatrical elements they incorporated. It was evident that the audience got a collective kick out of winking mentions of the lack of realism of the ‘majesty of theatre’. Parodic humour threads together what is otherwise a fairly disjointed piece, mocking everything from game shows to the Pirates of the Caribbean. The parody of experimental theatre was especially successful. This lighthearted jab at affected and grandiose theatre was all too relevant within the context of the Fringe. The audience also responded notably well to the piece when it got political. There were certainly a few sleek jokes about Trump.

However, a lot was left to be desired by the production. Although the audience was generally responsive, it often felt as if the writers went for material provoking easy laughs. Even their edgier jokes lacked a certain freshness. There was something half-baked and gratuitous about the notion that simply swearing or mentioning something taboo was itself hilarious, especially when many of these failed to deliver upon what they promised: shock value. The production failed to recognise that eventually jokes about “poo” and “tits” get monotonous. Additionally, the extravaganza occasionally fell prey to the same pitfalls experienced by the pop culture tropes it mocked. Unless done well, trying to pull off a film-like montage scene on stage can come off as clumsy. These flaws detracted from the piece’s emotional heart, which itself felt tonally jarring. The adventures of the characters were so wacky that it was difficult to actually invest in the soppier moments in the love/hate relationship between the two puppets. They didn’t feel earned. This was heightened by the pacing, which was frequently erratic, playing havoc with the emotional build. This was exacerbated by how the set, draped in red curtains, and eye-catching ploys like unfamiliar uses of lighting, were unfortunately lacklustre.

Ultimately, while this is an unusual production potentially unlike anything you have seen before, and it has its moments, much of the material fails to land.

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