at Warwick Arts Centre, Wednesday 15th February 2012
Since the 1980s, puppets have been all but vanquished from the stand-up comedy scene. Gone are the days when a deluded ‘funny man’ stuck his hand up a glove’s bottom and made it talk, but I doubt anyone feels any sadness for this loss. In Blind Summit’s The Table, however, one puppeteer is changed for four, and we are shown the wonders of combining comedy and puppetry. And it’s so laugh-out-loud funny it gives One Man Two Guvnors and Noises Offa run for their money.
The production is split into three sections; the first, and strongest, lasts around forty minutes and focusses on a Bunraku-style puppet who says he is “going to recreate the last 12 hours in Moses’ life. On a table”. It is a masterclass in puppetry, as the performers Mark Down, Nick Barnes and Sean Garratt manipulate the object in such a way that it seems to be living. And while this section is ostensibly a jumped-up cuddly toy doing stand-up, there is an extraordinary existentialist debate underlying the text. Does this puppet exist as a breathing object because that’s how we see it in our mind? Where do people go when we can’t see them?
The second and third section take up around ten minutes each, with the former using picture frames and clever lighting to create a moving gallery and the latter telling a story in French style puppetry. They both show the ability of the mind to fill in the gaps, to create an image out of something that isn’t really there, and with lashings of humour they make these points accessible.
The discipline of Down, Barnes, Garratt and Sarah Calver (the fourth performer) is astonishing, especially during the denouement of the ‘Moses’ section, as a table is thrown around and the puppet attempts desperately to cling on. Not a finger is put out of place and in doing so the company make it nothing short of heartwrenching. The Table is the best existentialist table-based stand-up-cum-theatre puppet routine you’ll ever see.