Bunk Puppets returns to the Fringe with a whole lot of cardboard and tinsel, bringing us shadow puppetry at its most inventive. Two brothers leave their war-torn planet in search of someplace to call home and find a number of adventures along the way. The plot is placed on the backburner, however, as visual storytelling takes pride of place in this gem of a show.
The slapdash part is wholly embodied by Jeff Achtem, who races all over the place to build this experience, providing sound, light and smoke effects, character voices and his own loveable character. The mutton-chopped, raggedly dressed gent mutters and chuckles to himself throughout, as though brewing up some wonderful treat for the audience, whom he wins over with a blend of grandfatherly tale-telling and boyish enthusiasm. The firm and fast friendship is no doubt helped along by hand torch lighting effects and impressive shadow play from the word go.
The set is deceptively simple, yet its tricks are cleverly revealed throughout the performance. Some of the hand puppets too are impressive creations, if you can draw your eyes from the screen to admire the scrappy creatures.
Always corresponding brilliantly to the action of the show, the soundtrack is itself noteworthy, which includes many an epic or classical theme as well as some more eclectic spacey pieces, in line with the offcuts and cardboard which make up the performance.
The show opens with some cleverly projected Star Wars style titles. It is unfortunate, however, that at this point the story slows to a crawl, where impressive puppetry and amusing asides are thinnest on the ground. This does allow time to appreciate the art of it and become absorbed in the universe of puppets; it's just a little too much time.
Slapdash Galaxy contains some of the best audience participation I have seen in three years at the Fringe. Baddies take every shape from balloons and people to 3D space pirates. Every shadow becomes a playground. To see it feels like being a part of something wonderful.
Immersive, delicious to watch and a great pleasure to experience.