Puppetry. No, wait! Come back! How about bears? Raggedy bears in an epic space quest for lost love, frozen friends and imps with existential angst. I can even guarantee a theme song with gorgeous four-part harmonies, as well as some sexy alien projections.
Jokes come thick and fast, from the surreal to the punderful
Through an hour’s raucous and heartfelt comic theatre, celebrated Irish company Collapsing Horse brings us from the cold depths of space to the fabric-strewn forests of Hospitalia, accompanied by live music and a crew of lost cosmonaut bears. A sneering storyteller introduces us to a heartbreakingly loyal bear captain, his perpetually frozen bear wife, their amnesiac bear friend, and a computer that’s trying to learn how to tell jokes. Throughout their long journey, they are helped and hindered by a cast of bizarre bear characters – Aaron Heffernan’s mesmerising Cuban bounty-hunter in particular stands out as a crowd favourite, while Jack Gleeson’s nightmarish creature Skin was equal parts ridiculous and horrifying.
With fantastic facial contortions and screechingly funny dialogue, the cast of four manipulate their scrappy puppets with gusto and excellent comic timing, bringing to life characters that look like they may just have been dug out from amid the dust of somebody’s attic.
However, the show lacks a fully-rounded story. Jokes come thick and fast, from the surreal to the punderful, and one tear-jerker flashback scene (reminiscent of Pixar’s film Up) is rich in emotion. But beyond these key moments of the show, I was left a little unsatisfied. As I left the venue the bears were still up in space, their story was still unfinished and a number of sub-plots had been left half-baked.
The story itself is a lovely one and the show is engaging. Every actors pours himself into each of his distinct (and often conflicting) characters with real commitment. If the hour could stretch on a little longer, this show could reach interstellar heights – but as it is, the audience spends too long learning about back-stories that never come to fruition. Regardless, the show remains frantically funny, touching and original, bringing sci-fi, comedy and yes, puppetry into wonderful fusion.