[author-post-rating] (3/5 Stars)
Hundreds of years in the future, the S.C.U.Z. taskforce are desperately searching through landfill for a trace of the being that “startling and endling it all”. They are fascinated with what people used to call ‘plastic’, and slowly out of their searching comes a story about a couple who adopt a child made of rubbish. His adventures turn slowly sadder as he attracts more and more of the rubbish that people throw away, becoming an outcast in a world he can only damage.
Playful and inventive, with some wonderful images and puppetry created out of the most basic materials, Feral Theatre do capture some element of childhood in their piece. The whole thing feels reminiscent of children’s make-believe, and in a very appealing way.
At times the story could be tricky to follow, with certain plot points unclear or ambiguous – does the giant suffocate the person who discovers him at the end? And since all four members of S.C.U.Z return, who is this meant to be? Similarly, although it eventually becomes clear, it takes a while to realise that two members of S.C.U.Z. have become a couple with a different story. And it is a little confusing that the couple seem to become pregnant but then adopt the giant after finding him in a bag of rubbish. Perhaps some slightly clearer indication of these elements would make the narrative a little easier to follow for younger children (and adults!). Having said that, a lot is depicted with minimal use of words and an expressive and inventive soundscape, and it is an impressive feat to create so much and generally hold the attention of children of various ages with so little speech.
Quirky and a bit dark, The Invisible Giant is quite sophisticated and edgy for a children’s show, and tackles serious issues without preaching or losing focus in its artistic qualities. There are plenty of moments of humour, although these occasionally need to find out where they are pitched: the mime of the sperm and egg is perhaps only humorous for those slightly older, while the introductory scene seems to be a way of trying to get young children on board by addressing them directly, which jarred slightly with the overall tone of the show.
Overall, however, this is a unique and intelligent show with a striking aesthetic. Physical movement and puppetry is where Feral excels, and the universally talented performers breathe life and energy into every movement. A particularly wonderful sequence is the creation of the sea out of some tatty plastic sheeting, which is simple but captivating and beautiful. The motif of the seagull throughout is also powerful, and the dead seagull puppet is very striking and well-executed. A memorable piece with beautiful moments, a playful attitude and wonderful physical movement, Feral Theatre are providing something very unusual in the world of children’s theatre.
Invisible Giant is playing at The Warren until 29 May. For more information and tickets, see the Brighton Fringe website.