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Puppets on the Fringe

Against reasonable prediction, against the prevailing winds of economic recession, and quite possibly against the general public's wishes, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe brochure – directory – has grown again. To save you time and energy, Animations Online here separates the wheat (shows involving puppetry) from the chaff (shows not involving puppetry).

First, a few repeat performances. Now on its sixth year and having recently passed the 1,200 performances mark, Puppet State Theatre Company's evergreen adaptation of Jean  Giono’s The Man Who Planted Treesis back at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. It's the original cast and the original puppets (albeit following some repair) so take the time to visit an old favourite. Then Ines Wurth Presents / Cal Arts return for the second-year running with Silken Veils, a piece about a young Iranian reliving her childhood during the turbulent years of the Iranian Revolution and Iran-Iraq war (and Cal Arts also have a new piece, Broken Wing). The River People's Little Matter, which was shown as a work in progress as part of Edinburgh International Festival last year, tells the story of a man  trapped in an ancient battle between light and dark from out the company's travelling theatre wagon. And Bunk Puppets and Scamp Theatre have a mini two-day run of Sticks, Stones, Broken Bones, Jeff Achtem's surreal junk shadow puppet show for family audiences, as well as longer full-Fringe runs of Stick Man Live on Stage!, and their new show Swamp Juice.

Elsewhere in the programme, and a company you're likely familiar with, Blind Summit are at the Fringe with their new production The Table, a piece of 'depraved puppetry inspired by Beckett, the Bible and Ikea' that apparently goes back to their Low Life roots (dissipate puppet cabaret, basically). Also for adult audiences there's Waste of Paint Productions' Le Cochon Entier, a dark-sounding fable about a couple who open a pork shop in a vegetarian town; F.337's Noh No Noh, a triptych where three directors from three continents 'investigate three of Misihma's Modern Noh – Hanjo, Kantan and Sotoba Komachi' through puppetry and object theatre; and Folded Feather's abstract science fiction tale Life Still.

Adaptations are always strongly represented, and this year Relief Theatre's Soldier and Deathmixes live Balkan music and traditional Eastern puppetry in a classic Russian folk tale about a soldier expelled from the Tsar's army; Wrong Crowd's The Girl with the Iron Claws adapts a Nordic myth (and has the excellent tagline, 'Growing up isn't easy, especially when you're in love with a bear.'); and for those who've always felt what puppetry needs as an artform is more crossover with gymnastics, Backhand Theatre's Tales from Edgar Allan Poehybridises the two. Working with archetype if not myth, Rumen Gavanozov of Theater Atelie 313's A Day in Novembertakes on the familiar conceit of an old man reliving his life through the objects that surround him, going head to head with Little Cauliflower's Sweet Dreams, which in précis is exactly the same.

The children's puppetry programme is even larger than the adult one (and even more rife with adaptations), but here are a few to look out for: Purves Puppets' trippy-looking glow in the dark version of a famous Russian folktale, The Firebird, set to Stravinsky's ballet score; old-hands Theatre of Widdershin's The King's Got Donkey's Ears!; Lyngo Theatre's frosty Snow Play; Georgi Spassov of Theater Atelie 313's Dream of the Travelling Actor, a piece about a peripatetic actor 'who roams the land telling the story of the Princess and the Pea in the hope of one day finding his own princess amongst the audience' which is told through the medium of bicycle tubes; and Bootworks Theatre's The Incredible Book Eating Boy, a five-minute show performed in their Black Box Theatre in the Pleasance Courtyard.

Look out for reviews of these shows in the next edition of AO!

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe runs 5-29 August 2011.


Top image strip, left to right: Theater Atelie 313, A Day in November; Puppet State, The Man Who Planted Trees; Waste of Paint Productions, Le Cochon Entier; Blind Summit, The Table
Bottom image: Blind Summit, The Table

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