Feral

Tortoise in a Nutshell

Underbelly, Bristo Square

From 14 August 2014 to 24 August 2014

Rating: *****

Review by Liam Blain

If you walk into Udderbelly Topside at 12PM every day this week, you could be forgiven for presuming some sort of scientific research was taking place. Instead, what awaits you is one of the most intriguing and beautiful pieces of theatre staged at the Edinburgh Fringe this year.

Tortoise in a Nutshell’s Feral combines puppetry, multimedia and soundscapes to convey the realistic implications when “The Supercade” superstore is built in a quiet seaside town. At first, the story is told through the eyes of Joe, a young boy who can’t wait for this new, exciting establishment to be brought to his shores. Once it arrives, however, it doesn’t take long for downsides to be realised and the whole town turning into anarchy in front of his eyes.

The story itself is filmed and shown above the working area where the puppeteers, sound technicians and lighting advisors are busy creating this phenomenal spectacle. The set is made out of what appears to be paper with the puppets themselves resembling little cartoon aliens.

My initial thought when hearing the subject matter for this production was that the use of puppets would completely dehumanise this heart-wrenching and emotional story of the town’s struggle. However, by watching the puppeteers inflict this disaster onto the town as the film plays makes a far stronger statement.

This piece is extremely clever in its theatricality, with the film live-mixed by Ross Mackay and sounds created by Jim Harbourne. The conversion from quiet village to anarchic community is so well thought through that it appears seamless and it is extremely evident that the training and rehearsals that the whole ensemble has put into the piece are extensive. The production runs like clockwork.  

The time, thought and detail that have been put into this production are second to none and were certainly not in vain. There is no show quite like this one at the Fringe and it is certainly not to be missed.