Jeff Achtem’s brand of shadow puppetry and storytelling is wonderfully impressive, insanely inventive, madly lovable, and has the power to transform an audience of mostly adults into maniacally giggling children. For just under an hour, you enter a magical realm where a cluttered stage full of household items and puppets comes to life to tell the story of ‘two brothers on a trip across the stars’ as they flee their war-torn planet in search of a new home, accompanied by special effects and epic soundtrack.
This performer knows how to entertain. Lying on his back, he uses both hands and feet to manipulate cardboard characters. From a delightfully home-made giant spaceship, he fires ‘weaponry’ (I won’t ruin it for you) at the audience, resulting in gasps, cheers, and the kind of joyful awe only possible in moments of true surprise. Malfunctions provide the most raucous laughter, as he improvises resourcefully around a puppet’s newfound baldness or a misplaced dog. When projected text is too large, he mutters, ‘It doesn’t quite fit…. It’s that kind of show’. Pleasingly candid as he is, if something goes wrong, it just becomes part of the fun.
Jeff utilises everything at his disposal, including the audience. Heads become planets, and one lucky audience member even gets to operate a balloon monster and an electric car. Charging comically through the crowd, foisting items into peoples’ hands, he demands their participation in displays. A real camaraderie is created, as everyone is invited to play.
A feast for the eyes and the mind, this performance emphasises the power of the imagination, a territory where beasts and pirates can be conquered by two boys on a crazy adventure, and ‘it is all 100% true’. If you’ve forgotten what it’s like to travel to space and battle with monsters, then you need to see this show.
Until 26 August (not 13), 13.00
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