The Looker is the surreal, dark yet playful story of Vida: a young woman who yearns to break free from the call centre and take control of her life.
Although there’s nothing magic about good puppetry, it sure can be spellbinding
Stepping into the heat and shade of the Bosco Theatre in Brighton’s Old Steine, there’s a definite sense of breaking away from reality. The roar and chaos of the Speigel Pub quitens to a gentle rumble. With her clipboard and quick wit, a strange blue-haired character – face half-covered by a puppet-like mask – guides guests to their seats. Meanwhile, a sad looking puppet sits quietly in the corner, writing a letter to herself.
Once everything is settled, the show begins and reality slips further and further away from us in an enjoyable and engrossing hour of theatre. There are dream sequences, and maybe even dream dream sequences, as well as mysteries and plenty of suprises on this surreal journey.
Vida walks through a colourful cast of characters - including herself. She is an emotional anchor for the audience on a sea which can be hard to read; she is calm and serene while all around her is chaos. Although she is not without her mysteries. The puppetry behind her is beautiful to behold. Her movements surprisingly graceful and yet infused with a sadness and vulnerability.
The other puppets and characters are full of charm and creativity, created on a shoestring (probably literally, actually) and are all the better for it. There’s the sock puppet bird, the pushchair motorbike, the bickering Sisters of Sleep, and the simplicity of an origami crane flying through the air. Oh, and the Morris dancing sheep, twacking banana skins against each other.
The all-female cast of Sabotage Theatre deserve great credit for bringing so much life and soul into the production. They’re playful and busy, shaking the fourth wall to good effect. There’s a lot of fruit, too - much of it eaten throughout the performance (they’re probably so busy promoting and preparing that that’s all they get to eat all day).
Different people will take different things away from The Looker. Its pleasantly ramshackle storyline lurches around with mystery, interest and plenty of laughs. However, it ends on a rather abstract note and perhaps leaves one too many questions about what messages, if any, The Looker was trying to convey.
Stepping into The Looker feels like walking into another world. One populated by puppets and people and all sorts in-between, with magic and music in the air. And although there’s nothing magic about good puppetry, it sure can be spellbinding.