If there’s one 44th birthday party you want to be going to this year, it’s Bill’s. He plates up the crudités and pours more than a generous serving of alcohol into a punch bowl ready for all his guests. Unfortunately no one shows and Bill, for the next hour, is left to dream up his own party guests in a sad and ever drunker stupor. This puppet comedy show by Dorothy James and Andy Munjuck is as abnormal as it is impressive. As the show progresses we fall further and further into Bill’s bizarre fever dream, as carrots and balloons start forming personalities of their own.
To miss the delight that is Bill's party would be a shame for both you and him
The puppets are incredibly well done, although most are quite simple and depend on fairly basic designs they are undeniably effective and, thanks to the puppeteers, still evoke emotion. Bill is slightly more detailed, with a big bushy moustache and equally characteristic eyebrows. He is a joy to watch and not only do co-creators and puppeteers, Andy Manjuck and Dorothy Hames, control him expertly and with immense character, but his simple facial features and animated movements bring real emotion to the piece. Bill was able to make us sad, happy, laugh, and pity him, which is largely due to the curiously quirky character that the puppeteers constructed.
Jon Riddleberger was also a fantastic puppeteer, although with no hand on Bill, his characters were also of equal value to the show and performed incredibly well. The puppets, however, weren’t the only thing to give the show character. Eamon Fogerty’s original scoring was crucial to the change in tones and emotion that the show would go through and did it’s job to perfection.
The story itself is somber and strangely depressing, but told through an oddly joyful lens. We were shown a telling of Bill’s life from childhood to adulthood and the slowly diminishing number of people that surrounded him as he aged. However, this was shown in a creative and strangely endearing way that kept Bill’s past obscure, yet relatable. When we weren’t sitting worrying about Bill and our existence, we were laughing at the massive carrot puppet or balloons that had it in for Bill for seemingly no reason. Bill’s 44th is a charming spectacle with some incredible puppeteers behind it and to miss the delight that is Bill's party would be a shame for both you and him.