On its face, 'It's a Puppet Life' seems like a fairly straightforward concept. People like Avenue Q, people like sketch shows; what happens if we smoosh the two together? Actually, what happens is more than the sum of these parts.
Getting the obvious out of the way - the puppets are superbly crafted and the range of different types is impressive - ranging from traditional Muppet-style plush to Javan shadow play. However, most of my enjoyment came from the skill of the four young performers.
Oddly enough, for a show sold on the promise of puppetry, many of my favourite sketches were those without the plush puppets. The group have created an amazing sociopathic tea-bagging Batman and Godzilla VS London 2012 is the funniest piece of shadow puppetry I've see in a long time.
All of which leads me to think that 'It's a Puppet's Life' probably didn't start life with puppets. Many of the sketches feature them as straight man characters. Some sketches centred around them feel very much like after-thoughts (I'm looking at you, 'Sock Dance'). And, though they are usually a welcome addition, the choice to include them seems a slightly calculated one, designed to make the show stand out (after all, everyone loves a puppet). There's nothing really wrong with this but it does feel a little cynical.
That said, the use of unconventional puppets creates some fantastic sketches. 'Pillow Fight' is a fantastically surreal gem and the Jane-Austenesque 'New Man in Town' benefits from a fantastically odd twist.
By and large though, the writing speaks for itself with only a couple of damp squibs (I think we're all done with fart jokes...) In fact there're some sketches, the final Indiana-Jones-style one in particular, that genuinely turn the tables on the audience.
While still a slightly mixed bag,'It's a Puppet Life' is consistently amusing. There may be some more focussing to do and more thought about how best to use the puppets but it's still pretty much the most fun you can have in a darkened room with a load of socks.