by Stephane Georis
directed by Francy Bégasse
Performed by Stephane Georis
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Fremantle
for The Fremantle Festival
November 16 - 20, 2011
Puppetry sure ain’t what it used to be. In the Belgian puppeteer Stephane Georis’s wild ride through science and history, life, love and death, Adam Polchineur de Laboratorie (roughly The Professor in his Laboratory) at Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, very little you’d identify as a puppet makes an appearance. Unless, of course, you think zucchinis, carrots and cauliflowers are puppets. Oh, or bread rolls – lots of them, in all shapes and sizes.
Director Francy Bégasse has Georis uses all these items and more, pulled from his cupboard and manipulated on a laboratory bench, to great effect as he investigates ballistic theory, the survival of the fittest and the ascent (and looming descent) of man. The dinosaurs terrorize the world, little fish swallow tiny fish (all in the guise of the aforementioned bread rolls) and in turn are chewed up by larger and larger ones, monkeys become apes and men, and mankind marches on to its materialistic destiny.
Every so often Georis dons a half-mask, climbs a ladder, spreads his arms and becomes Icarus, casting free the bounds of earth. The message, as becomes clear at the end when a nuclear holocaust destroys the cream cake we call the world, along with all the fruit and vegetables that inhabit it, is that we, like the boy falling out of the sky, should beware of flying too high.
English is clearly a secondary language for Georis, and this is a very wordy show as puppetry goes. His attempts at the language add greatly to its charm, but also contribute to its patchiness. While Georis, much in the style of Victor Borge, is capable of making you laugh out loud, and keep you laughing helplessly, through complicated and increasingly bizarre routines, there are quite long periods where the proceedings seem to flail about somewhat.
I heeded the publicity saying this was a show for big kids – I understood that to mean 14+ – and so brought along a precocious fifteen-year-old of my acquaintance as a sounding board. I’m bound to say that she was also impressed and unimpressed in equal measure, and for much the same reasons as mine. There is some glorious comedy here, and some inventively realised insights about us, and the human condition, but also some jokes that fly perilously close to the sun.
An edited version of this review appeared in The West Australian link here