After winning Best New Comedy at last year’s Brighton Fringe, the puppet-based sketch comedy group Stickyback returns this year with new show Puppetgeist. After the success and rave reviews for 2013’s offering, A Puppet Named Desire, the theatre company came back to the Fringe with a new horror-themed show. While the puppetry is impressive, and the energy of the performers cannot be faulted, Puppetgeist fails by simply not being funny enough.

The shadow puppetry and the well thought through sketches really stand out as having potential.

Based around interactions between Dan and his foul-mouthed puppet best friend Bloo, Puppetgeist consists of a number of loosely-related sketches that parody horror tropes. While this theme is seemingly forgotten during some sketches, some of the ideas work well. Jokes about copyright infringement, the brutality of Disney films and angry bears all draw laughs from the crowd. The clear highlight of the whole show is the shadow puppetry sections. Quite unique, well written, and executed excellently, these sections really show the potential of Stickyback.

When it comes to the consistency of jokes, however, Puppetgeist really fails. Far more sketches fall flat than work. Many just rely on tired concepts of puppets shouting and swearing, or a man in bad drag. The writing often comes across as lazy, with cheap jokes and attempts at shock humour often relied upon in the absence of any real punchline. It’s a shame really, as the show is executed very professionally. But the material they are working with is, for the most part, not good enough.

Moreover, the shadow of last year’s show really seems to fall over Puppetgeist. References to the award-winning A Puppet Named Desire are made throughout, ranging from callbacks, to characters from the previous show popping up. However, few in the audience really seem to understand them, which creates a rather awkward atmosphere.

Some of Stickyback’s ideas are really nice. The shadow puppetry and the well thought through sketches really stand out as having potential. It’s a shame, then, that the company seems to fall back on tired tropes of puppets being outrageous. There are far more misses than hits here, and that undermines the good ideas on offer. If you are a fan of puppet-humour, you will enjoy some segments of the show because Stickyback are technically very skilled. However, the show commits the cardinal sin of just not being funny enough. 

Reviews by James Lillywhite

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The Blurb

Best New Comedy Award Winners and “Fringe favourites” ***** (Broadway Baby) Stickyback offer us a peek into the world of horror as only a puppet can. Dan and Bloo unleash their “Unconventional sketch - a cut above” (The Argus) through an all new monster sketch show! “Hilarious” ***** (Remote Goat).