Puppet Fiction

In order to snare the attention of an average jaded and time-poor festival-goer, you’re going to need a pitch that can stop them in their tracks on the Royal Mile and accept the flyer that you’re thrusting into their hands. And as pitches go, ‘Pulp Fiction, but with puppets’ is a winner. The film is now over twenty years old (don’t bother checking Wikipedia, you really are that old), and has passed into legend of soundtrack CDs and movie posters. So if you do your own version, there’s a bit of pressure to get it exactly right – even if everyone in the audience can see the strings.

Even when it’s doing nothing more than repeating Vincent Vega’s mumbled rhapsody to differently named quarter pounders, this is lots of fun

As befits a highly quotable film, there are major chunks of this show that are pretty much lifted verbatim from the movie. As one of the puppeteers comments: ‘We haven’t been sued in six years – so fuck ‘em.’ This – as you might expect – hints at the content warning you may have been expecting. Yes, this is a puppet show, and no, it’s not for kids: there is swearing, drug references, gunplay and liberal examples of the Tarantino love affair with certain offensive words.

It’s tempting to say that all your favourite scenes are included, but really – since a fair amount of slicing and dicing is required to ensure Puppet Fiction comes in under the hour – there’s actually a fair amount that’s not on stage, including the iconic Mia Wallace. Essentially, Puppet Fiction concentrates only on the film segments that include both Jules and Vincent – those characters played by Samuel L Jackson and John Travolta. So while you miss out on Christopher Walken discussing uncomfortable hunks of metal and Uma Thurman extolling the virtues of a five dollar milkshake, you still get Pumpkin and Hunny Bunny holding up surprised customers.

The puppets, incidentally, are excellent. Amanda Plummer’s features particularly are very well realised (as is, somewhat curiously, her voice), and Marvin – who you may remember as being the unfortunate passenger who ends up with no head – has a decent special effect to replicate his situation here, along with a gag where a direct quote – ‘Did you see that gun? It was bigger than him’ is literally true.

If you’re a fan of the movie, there’s frankly no reason not to like this: as I’ve indicated, you already know most of the script. That said, the show really soars when it’s brave enough to blend the pulp with something more substantial: there’s an excellent moment in which a certain mid-90s Jane Campion film gets a side swipe, as well as a pertinent answer to Jimmy’s question regarding signs outside his door.

But even when it’s doing nothing more than repeating Vincent Vega’s mumbled rhapsody to differently named quarter pounders, this is lots of fun, partially because the dialogue is sharp, and mostly because it’s Pulp Fiction, as told by puppets.

And as Winston Wolf told us: personality goes a long way.

Reviews by Andrew Allen

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The Blurb

Everybody be cool, this is a motherf*cking puppet show! The ultimate Tarantino homage, this is Pulp Fiction with strings attached. The award-winning cult show from New Zealand returns to the Edinburgh Fringe with more miniature madness and mayhem. Combining the joy of live puppetry with an iconic piece of pop culture makes for a unique and hilarious theatrical experience. Created and performed by puppet maker and master Jon Coddington, theatre wizard Hannah Clarke, actress Anya Tate-Manning, award-winning Welsh/Samoan comedian James Nokise and 25 handmade 40cm marionettes, this show promises to be something special.