If you ever thought that puppets were innocent creatures, Flabbergast Theatre will certainly remove any fragment of such an illusion. Boris and Sergey – two filthy and abusive dolls – are brought to life, playing out a love-hate relationship of attention-seeking and constant insults.

The plot itself is fairly loose: Boris and Sergey bet something in poker that they don’t want to lose, and have to flee from the Dark Ones who come to claim it. Yet the company blasts the audience with such energy and focus that I was kept on the edge of my seat throughout.

Inspired by Bunraku style puppetry, the dolls are each controlled by three puppeteers, and the skilled interplay between them is crafted to perfection. We believe fully not only in the puppets but in the unity of the puppeteers bringing them to life. Not losing their flow for a second, they take us on a journey where even those hiding in the back rows aren’t safe, as the whole audience’s participation and response becomes an integral part of the performance. As the dolls flee from the Dark Ones over and under land, sea and air, the suspended reality becomes a dual dynamic, our eyes hopping between the two equally true realities of the puppets and puppeteers.

The chaos of fleeing dolls and frightening dark forces is a treat in itself, but it is the performance’s grasp of humanity and compassion that makes it really worth watching. Even as we laugh at the abuse, there is a tenderness underlying the performance – we sense that Boris and Sergey really just need to be recognised and loved.

With trust, sincerity, support, love, hate, and betrayal becoming major undercurrents,  Boris and Sergey’s Vaudevillian Adventure left me caught between laughter, sharp intakes of breath – and maybe even a tear or two. It was a pure pleasure to watch, and one of the biggest laughs I’ve had in a long time. Quite possibly one of the best shows at the Fringe this year.

***** – 5 stars

Boris & Sergey’s Vaudevillian Adventure is playing at Pleasance Courtyard as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival until 27th August. For more information and tickets, see the Edinburgh Fringe website.