Runs 45min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 9 October at Little Angel Theatre Islington.

Roll up and see a pleasant show unfold.
This parade of circus marionettes – allegedly one-third life-size, though the lion looked considerably less – is a puppet troupe which has been touring for a half-century or so. Their current appearance comes in the shape of Frome-based company Noisy Oyster.

Nik Palmer and Sarah Rowland-Barker intersperse the puppet-acts, on a set suggesting circus tents, with moments of their own performances. These include some quite nifty juggling, with comic overtones, to delight and amaze the 3+ audience.

The puppets themselves look fine in their circus splendour, though the acts on which attention’s focused are not the place of the real skill. That lies in the dexterity and teamwork that creates the puppet impressions of circus skills.

There is, too, a story, and it’s likely this has changed over the puppets’ lifetime, for it involves the caged lion and shows a modern sensibility towards wild animals.

Whether or not there has, from the start, been the clown’s insistence that this creature will be released back to the wild so he can continue his natural lifestyle, it’s there now, and can help quiet liberal parental concerns about animal acts.

Other creatures tend to be coordinated groups of the small and loveable; they give rise to much of the most impressive puppeteering. There’s a comic routine as the circus clown, when not talking confidentially to his lion companion, is donning a lion head to frighten the bright-clad, sleek ringmaster.

Added to references to the animal trying to bite his way (unseen to audience view) through the bars and the inevitable set-up’s established for the moment when ringmaster takes escaped lion for clowning lion-impersonator.

This show goes for broad impact rather than finely-detailed movement. The story is amusing and slight, so that, by the side of much work seen at the Little Angel, it lacks some depth and originality of presentation. But that’s perhaps just another way of saying it had its origin in a distant period, and that it marks how far the puppet vocabulary has expanded in recent decades. For all its limitations it remains pleasantly enjoyable, if not the greatest show on earth.

Performers: Nik Palmer, Sarah Rowland-Barker.

2011-10-14 00:17:29

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