Puppet City - A Korean Fantasy

Assembly @ George Street

Puppet City - A Korean Fantasy is appearing at the Assembly Rooms in its first ever showing outside Asia by master puppeteer Cho Yong Suk and the Hyundai Puppet Theatre. It uses a new kind of puppet made of foam and attached to various parts of the puppeteer's body - the head to the puppeteer's head, the feet to her feet and other controls in her hands - so that movements of the puppeteer's body create similar movements by the puppets.

The show opens on a beautiful fluorescent landscape painted on two giant fans at the back of the stage, between which a puppet drummer drums in the start of the show. A puppet acting as an emcee introduces the show as a competition between eight acts, which the front row of the audience has to vote on to choose the best at the end. The acts include a story of a young couple achieving happiness after overcoming their difference in status, a fan dance, two different acts where the puppets play drums quite energetically and convincingly and an amazing puppet playing a penny flute that moves every finger in time with the music. These puppets can pick things up, play instruments and even undress. The music throughout the show ranges from traditional Asian music to western pop music - even some Abba.

The pace of this show is slow and gentle and there is no continuous story to follow, but the puppets are at times mesmerising to watch. Unfortunately the show is let down by the technical aspects. The lighting is not particularly inspiring to start with, but at the performance I saw there was action in darkness, blackouts in the middle of scenes and a follow-spot that was always several seconds behind the action on stage. Hopefully this will be sorted out because it really does mar an otherwise very interesting show.

(Originally awarded 3½ stars.)

Reviewer: David Chadderton

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