Impro with a difference, not only do the performers have to create characters and scenarios for themselves but they are also creating characters for puppets as they go and this is an impressive and silly show for all impro and puppet fans.
The host for the show David S Innes does a great job welcoming punters, keeping an eye on proceedings and knowing when to stop skits. The performer/ puppeteers are all brilliant people, including; Rob Lloyd more famous for his own geek based shows like last year’s sublime The Heart Awakens and Petra Elliot from Night Terrace (who’s puppetry skills dazzled in The Magical Oak Tree & Who Killed John Bearington III). Matt Hadgraft does a fine job with a live musical accompaniment on the electric piano.
The faceless puppets are referred to as The Ritas and if you know the Muppets you understand that different eyes noses etc can be attached like velcro to create different characters. The large boards on stage display a dazzling myriad of eyes, noses and mouths for the puppeteers to choose from and are tantalising to look at while waiting for the show to start. Hmmm, not many beards so not many hipster possibilities. Lots of moustaches, an eye patch, a nose with whiskers….
One of the highlights of the show was where the audience member got to stick a face on the puppet from the smaller more portable Face Buffet board. I would have enjoyed more being made of just mucking about with the faces and characters for a bit without the need for scenes up front, but maybe that’s just the Muppet tragic me. The scenes helped along by audience suggestions were great though, including Zeus having a mental breakdown and then getting to meet Bigfoot on breakfast television.
The strongest part of the show was the long form story, in this case it was a Western and the players get to play with the genre, with a little help from the audience as always, but also from guest improviser Jason Geary who gets to play off the puppets (not wearing enough silly moustaches for my liking) and lead the way. As a show with so many possibilities at it’s fingertips I appreciated the structure in place and choices that were made by the performers beforehand and I’m sure Jason did too. It’s always good to have something to hang on to when a show can go anywhere. Jason is a legend at comedy impro though, and did a fabulous job traversing the ridges and ravines of making stuff up on the spot.
This is a really kooky little experiment hybrid of a show and another extraordinary way to find laughs at the Melbourne Comedy Festival.
The Mighty Little Puppet Show is on at The Upstairs Lounge @ Little Sista until April 3