When Jack cut down the beanstalk that brought a dead Giant crashing down on his provincial town, everyone was arms up in arms. Blind Summit, the UK’s premier puppet theatre company, tell the story on the ground. This is a state-of-the-nation satire of the economic crash as seen in the beady eyes of the ‘little people’.
The town of Massiveville takes its name in pride, punching above its weight economically with good funding (golden eggs) for services and payable mortgages. When catastrophe strikes, everyone is brought into lament by the local religious leader: “The beanstalk was the spiritual pillar of the community”.
This is fairytale shenanigans with the small-town comedy of Hot Fuzz. The puppets, excellently made by Rachel Good and Mark Down’s team of designers, are big-cheeked, scowling, and manipulated by a deft cast. The moody detective DI Clive (Jake Waring) feels the pressure to get to the bottom of the giant’s death, with townspeople looking on: a pub-lady named Tina (Laura Caldow) who gets her news from the Daily Mail; Suki (Fiona Clift), a hilariously apathetic teenager whose efforts to find the missing Jack amount to checking Instagram, Tumblr, etcetera. Meanwhile, a pill-popping artist Daz (Simon Scardifield) presents the story in the form of the play that we’re watching.
Under Down’s direction, the sombre and clipped delivery of jokes is immensely laughable, especially with Fergus Waldron’s doom-filled sound design. There is fun in the seriousness of it, of puppets making epic entrances from the wings, and their lives spinning literally out of control in Carolyn Choa’s choreography.
It best exposes the narrow minds, the reaction to the discovery of Jack being a bit “queer”. When the crisis resolves there may be entry into alternative values (one character leaves to discover their Polynesian roots!) but a brilliant final beat conveys that sometimes the shocks of a big world disaster aren’t enough to shift conservative thinking in small town life.
Citizen Puppet runs at Pleasance Courtyard (Pleasance Beyond) until 30 Aug. For more information and tickets, see the Fringe website.