scratch (work in progress)

Sometimes raw, rough shows, performed on a knife-edge are the most gripping. This was certainly true in the case of the first part of Unpacked’s double-bill ‘scratch’ performance which took place in the foyer of the Pleasance Theatre, Islington. ‘The Show Must Go On’ featured an unforgettably hoarse, foul-mouthed, cigarette-smoking, whiskey-drinking tramp of a tranny singer puppet and a band of musicians, with a band comprised of a piano (full iron frame, hammers, dampers, action and strings), laden with musical saw, motor horn and a whole load of toy instruments masterfully played along with electric keyboard, which provided the vamp for a singing number. The interaction with the audience was spot on, the very real drama of getting the piano frame into the theatre up the stairs gripping. I wouldn’t have wanted a single thing changed. Aimed at adults, it worked perfectly as a late-night show. 5 stars for this. The second half of Unpacked’s performance was full of potential. Aimed at a different age group, of teenagers, rather than adults, it showcased a ‘scratch’ performance of a well-informed story of a teenage puppet who sought escape in rock music, blogging and Manga. These escapist activities were driven by a desire to escape a nightmare home life, where she was bullied by an archetypical wicked stepmother, with an obsession for hoovering. One person’s noise is another person’s nightmare, and more could have been done with this theme throughout the show. While the puppetry skills were strong, acting skills were not convincing enough. This show has great potential for development into a TIE piece, as it showed that a lot of research had gone into it. It was well-informed and worth taking further. 3 stars for this. Kudos to both The Pleasance and The Suspense London Puppetry Festival, which is set to become a biannual event (hurrah!) for supporting companies such as Unpacked try out new ideas ‘for real’. The range of shows, workshops and seminar included in the festival was impressive and it was great to have such a wonderful showcase for some very talented performers and puppetry companies out there. Long may it continue.

Reviews by Leon Conrad

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The Blurb

The beginnings of new work by Unpacked. Turn off the lights and we’ll tell some tales... A man who has travelled halfway across the world, accompanied by an imaginary cow. An aging clown with a score to settle. A trunk full of long-lost love letters. And Moth, a little girl who is not afraid of the dark... but is alarmed by the monster under the bed. It looks a lot like a Dyson. But it doesn’t need to be plugged in to suck the life out of you. Experimentation with multimedia, puppetry, movement, live music and new writing.

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