In this post-apocalyptic scenario, the ice caps have melted, flooding the earth and forcing survivors to skyscrapers and mountaintops – or, in Alvin Sputnik’s case, a glorified roof garden, complete with house, tree and ailing wife. What’s more (if the global situation were not bad enough) Alvin’s wife then dies, leaving him alone in the vast ocean with nothing and no one to live for.
But there is hope. Just as his wife’s soul has drifted, fairy-like, into the deep, Alvin is alerted to Earth HQ and its call for a hero to travel underwater and save the world. Spurred on by love and grief, Alvin volunteers and the perilous adventure begins.
Tim Watts, undoubtedly a bit of an Alvin Sputnik himself, orchestrates the show in a wetsuit, using hand puppetry, mime, projections, music, light and shadows. The performance, for all its media, is simple, and brings little, Lilliputian Alvin to life without making him too cutesy or unrealistic. In fact, his wife’s death is the perfect catalyst for adventure, as it gives him both an ulterior motive to save the world and nothing to lose in failing. He is no Hollywood do-gooder, but driven by his own grief and need of purpose.
The production as a whole is captivating, and showcases Watts’ originality and talent as a storyteller. The puppets are endearing, and the emotions understated. And whilst Sputnik is suitable for kids, my advice would be to leave them at home. It really is too good for children.
Sputnick has finished its stint in Edinburgh, but is scheduled to run at Bristol Festival of Puppetry (2-4 September,) Oxford Playhouse (8-10) and Dublin Fringe (15-24)