Loosely inspired by the fairy-tale ‘The Elves and the Shoemaker’, Pendulums Bargain Emporium explores, through puppetry, imaginative visual theatre and music, the impact that greed and our consumerist culture has on small businesses and on the rest of the world. Pendulums Bargain Emporium itself is a department store, clean, bright and fake, run by three sales assistants of the same quality. This is set to contrast strongly with the Shoemaker, who is scruffy, tramp-like and armed with an accordion. Facilitated by the shiny sales assistants, who multirole throughout (although the sales assistants are their primary role), the Shoemaker has his story told. Varied, colourful, bizarre, gaudy and surprising, Pendulums Bargain Emporium is quite an experience.
The play begins with sickeningly sweet shop assistants greeting the audience as customers, asking names, picking on apparel choices and trying to sell them various items. This was all rather amusing and set the scene of a department store excellently. Then enters the shoemaker, alone, he brings out a tape recorder and an accordion and his story begins, jumping between the glaringly shiny department store and the dull shabbiness of the shoemaker as it unfolds. It does so with inventive and humorous use of props and surprising moments of song and visual theatre. The cast effectively spun scenes of a nightmarish fairy-tale, colourful and upbeat but with the presence of a sinister undertone. Absurd, gaudy and irritatingly ridiculous at times, the cast often used impressive techniques to bring their stories to life, however, the greatest moments were let down by the weakest. Much as I was intrigued and entertained both by the inspired and the overall great performances, parts of the production veered too far into the crude, the gauche (not always were it was pertinent) and the slightly too absurd that rather undermined its other moments of excellence.
Half fairy-tale, half harsh reality and 100% ridiculous, Pendulums Bargain Emporium is entertaining - enough for me to say it’s worth the ticket price.