Everyone’s favourite Eastern European leather puppet brothers Boris and Sergey are back, this time bringing the Astonishing Freakatorium, their Gothic Victorian freak show complete with bearded lady, to the Fringe. Once we’ve ticked off a public service announcement warning the faint of heart, tarot cards have been handed out and the room is pumped full of smoke, the stars we’ve all been waiting for, Boris and Sergey themselves, arrive, and the madness of this puppet show for grown-ups can begin.
The line-up of handheld freaks on display for our delectation in this strange circus includes: a miniature and bloodthirsty savage whose rage can only be tamed by music; a man with an exceptionally small head; Boris’ beloved pet chicken Betsy; and several spirits with lights for eyes and a penchant for lemon drizzle cake. Most of them are bumped off one by one by our endearing and bumbling ringmasters Boris and Sergey who soon have the audience howling with laughter at their macabre comedy of errors.
The script is clever but fairly sparse, leaving the six-strong team of puppeteers a lot of room for witty improvisation and some expertly handled audience participation skits. Much of the comedy of the piece lies in the wonderful relationship between Boris and Sergey that the eyeliner-ed folks from Flabbergast Theatre animate with skilful puppetry and a lot of love for their creations. The attention to detail with every move is inspired and a delight to watch.
With a creepy and ethereal final scene the show takes a very dark turn indeed but for the most part this is good old-fashioned, riotous fun. Perhaps its less-than-capacity audience can be explained by the fact that the show is tucked away in the Cabaret listings this year. It deserves to sell out. Get your ticket and roll up, roll up to Boris & Sergey’s Astonishing Freaktorium: it won’t disappoint.
Boris & Sergey’s Astonishing Freakatorium is at Underbelly Cowgate (Venue 61) until 24 August. For more information and tickets visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.