Low Life

Devised by Blind Summit Theatre
Tobacco Factory, Bristol, and touring
(2007)

Production photo

Filing in to an auditorium, a glass of something cool in hand, to the mellow sound of Tom Waits' Martha, has got to be a great start to an evening of theatre. A chilled and easy cast of four (Mark Down, Curtis Jordan, Mhairi Steenbock and Ben Thompson) then welcome a packed Wednesday night audience to a bar, The Drunk Puppeteer: "not the sort of place you go out to; more the sort of place people end up".

In a series of sketches, Blind Summit Theatre treats its audience to an evening of outrageously silly, utterly engaging and at times surprisingly arresting puppetry. The show was inspired by Pulp, the final novel of American chronicler Charles Bukowski. The novel's chief protagonist, Nick Belane, is acknowledged here in the funniest sketch of the evening, the 'afternoon movie', starring 'Jack Belane', a private dick, the action played out hilariously on the bar by a cast of tiny, static little blue figures.

From the story of Kevin, the drunk, whose wife 'turned into a dog', to the ancient cleaning lady who downs tools every morning at 10.15, picks up her romantic novel and becomes utterly carried away, to Bud, the tiny action hero who makes plumbing sexy, the puppets and the puppeteers have a fluidity and a touching, self-referential inter-dependence. The cleaning lady, after a particularly harrowing stretch of her novel, turns to her puppeteers for reassurance: "You got me? You got my legs?" This lends the puppets an incredible expressiveness, in spite of their static features.

This is a very funny, very slick performance. Blind Summit excel here with this brilliantly compulsive, "pissed-up puppetry" for grown ups.

"Low Life" runs at the Tobacco Factory, Bristol, until November 10, then tours to Warwick Arts Centre, Unity Theatre Liverpool, South Street Arts, Reading, The Point, Eastliegh

Reviewer: Allison Vale