Review: Famous Puppet Death Scenes by The Old Trout Puppet Workshop

A fun but ultimately frustrating exhibition of puppet deaths from Canada's Old Trout Puppet Workshop

★★★
theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
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Famous Puppet Death Scenes
Published 04 Aug 2018

The Old Trout Puppet Workshop’s Famous Puppet Death Scenes does exactly what it says on the tin, pretty much. Imported from Calgary as part of Summerhall’s CanadaHub programme, it’s a vaudevillian sketch show of drownings, suicides and shootings jokingly lifted from the classical puppetry canon. An exhibition of expiration.

And it’s quite a lot of fun. Our host, the doddering puppetry professor Nathaniel Tweak, himself a puppet, presents puppets shot in hunting accidents, puppets gobbled up by monsters, puppets repeatedly getting mashed by a giant fist, interspersing scenes with flighty analysis about their meaning. You get the gist.

The most enjoyable deaths are the most unexpected, the most ingenious: a butterfly getting burned by a magnifying glass, a giant whale’s eye closing for the last time, and, brilliantly, a young girl’s family of dolls getting destroyed by two demonically possessed younger siblings. Oh, there’s a great, gory one about a Dickensian child-snatcher, too.

But, although there’s certainly a curious joy in watching The Old Trouts work their analogue intricacy (popping up behind windows, wheeling trolleys through creaking doors, etc.), Famous Puppet Death Scenes starts to wear after a while.

It’s because there’s only one joke on offer – puppets dying in stupid ways. And after the fourteenth or fifteenth puppet death, you start to wish for the show to go somewhere else, somewhere a bit deeper. It tries to, with a meta-theatrical ending for our puppet host himself, but fails. Plenty of Punch, not much Judy.