Brunton Theatre is far away. So far away that when you take the bus home again there is a sign that says ‘Welcome to Edinburgh’. Only a show that is truly special would warrant an hour bus journey (yes, I took the slow bus) to leave the city, fortunately Fiddlesticks is such a show.
Fiddlesticks is a story about music and its creative powers, about the joy that can be created when order and regularity are overturned, performed simply by one woman, Iklooshar Malara, and a string of puppets. The eponymous hero is, as his name suggests, a violin, but in a slightly different guise. For starters he has eyes, a wide reaching grin, two legs and a fingerboard above his head. And yet, he can still be played to produce music. The story is his search for the beautiful Violinka who, along with her dog, are constructed around horns. Everything that features onstage is infused with music and musicality; Fiddlesticks’ horse is made from a bow, with which he might once have been played, and even the birds fly from musical scores. The antagonist Metronomous features the steady ticking of a metronome and is constructed from a music stand, gruffly animated by Malara herself who provides the voices for all the instruments. There was also a beautiful sequence featuring shadow puppets and lighting changes which was captivating in its sheer simplicity.
It was remarkable to see quite how much the children invested in the characters despite their fundamental inability to change expressions. However, at times I found myself wishing that there was more than one puppeteer on stage, not that Malara doesn’t do a wonderful job on her own but she had to excuse characters from certain scenes in order to deal with the others. Perhaps if there had been another puppeteer there could’ve been more sustained interaction and slightly more dynamism to some of the scenes.