The Backyard Story, on as part of Summerhall's Taiwan Season, could be also called The Secret Life of Clothes. Or, less charitably, Ideas Flapping in the Wind.
Puppet Beings Theatre's wordless show opens on two women hanging out their washing and giving each other side-eye over who has the nicest clothes. After they've gone, their clothes 'come to life' and spend what feels like a very long time doing very little.
There’s the seed of a charming, interesting idea here: using what we wear to convey the trials and tribulations of the lives we lead, from friendship to family, for a young audience. But the black-light-theatre staging—actors in black operating the clothes like puppets, against a black backdrop—is never dark enough for us to ignore the actual people on stage.
Director Chen-Chieh Sun’s production—accompanied by the kind of relentlessly bouncy, upbeat music you hope never to get stuck listening to in a lift—is also confusingly staged and thematically all over the place. There’s a mix of sketchily abstract imagery (with a red balloon acting as the main culprit) and weirdly inappropriate moments. At one point, inexplicably, a dress flashes its petticoats at us. Throw in a preening skirt and a few other bits of jarring sartorial characterisation, as well as a storm sequence that runs out of puff long before it ends, and you have a show whose perfectly worthwhile ‘love your neighbour' message gets lost in its folds.