Have you ever felt like you’re just another cog in the system, having to leapfrog through loopholes just to find your feet? Well, Meet Fred.
He is stuck in a Fringe show, the script has been written but he has no idea where his life is going to take him. As his puppeteers manipulate his every move, he tackles the job centre, gets to grips with dating and all the time trying to avoid breaking point.
Using Banraku puppetry and clever theatrical magic, Hijinx Theatre has created a entranceway into a puppet’s life that both pulls at the heart strings yet makes the audience question the real world around them in startling true colours.
The theatre company originates in Cardiff and is a master in what it calls “inclusive theatre”. It ensures that every production it creates involves actors with learning disabilities who, in other circumstances, could easily get overlooked for these acting roles in society.
This piece expertly defines a life being different and having to conform to fit in. The diversity of the cast just adds to the strong message that is being imparted through the hour spent discovering Fred’s story.
Under the directorship of Ben Pettitt-Wade, Meet Fred is beautifully creative with a minimal but ingenious set surrounded by a brainstorm background of Fred’s life in chalk around the walls. One of the best scenes definitely comes during a weather sequence where, using a household fan, some rice and a carrier bag full of paper, we witness Fred’s physical and metaphorical struggle towards his unknown future.
A special mention must go to Fred’s three puppeteers, Dan McGowan, Morgan Thomas and Craig Quat. Their precision and uniformity as a trio is exhilarating and, even though their job is to manipulate an already prejudiced puppet, they do so with care, consideration and, at many times, through comedy.
Although it may not be the most superbly acted piece at the Fringe this year, there is so much more to applaud. Integrity, grit and integration all to give life to Fred and a fun frolic into his fictitious existence.
If you haven’t already met the man himself, I’d grab a ticket before it’s too late.
Reviewer: Liam Blain