The Hit

Strange Face

The Hit Credit: Mark Dean

Mikey is a puppet. Of course, he doesn’t think so! He’s a professional assassin, a hitman without a scruple in his foam and aluminium body, that is until his arch-enemy, the Ice Queen Svetlana, is run over in the street below his apartment by an old lady driving an ancient Buick. Can this be an accident? Just bad luck?

Mikey is shocked out of his composure, the belief that he’s always in control, and goes off for a sauna to relax. Instead of a soothing session in the steam, Mikey is provoked by a madman, ranting about cognitive dissonance, the ability of humans to hold two contradictory truths at the same time, about the way humans use belief systems to manage their terror of death.

Mikey starts to reflect on his life and takes us on a journey through those moments, some of them pretty disturbing, when things turned out his way. Was it only luck? Can it be that’s he’s as much of a puppet in the hands of Fate as any other dumb schmuck?

The Hit is an excellent piece of adult puppet theatre in the style of Japanese ‘bunraku’. Ratcheting up the irony in the tale, the puppeteers are visible, skilfully moving the Mikey’s hands and feet, turning his head, so that he seems as human as any of us. There’s a moral to this tale, however, beyond Mikey the Hitman’s redemption, as he explains himself in a fascinating epilogue. How can it be that we believe Mikey is delivering this excellent piece of text, while a puppeteer is so clearly speaking and Mikey can’t even open his mouth (as he admits himself)?

This is a clever and fascinating piece of work, the result of research in neuroscience, carried out with funding from the Wellcome Trust, into how our brain decides what is real. It has lashings of irony and black humour.

Mikey is a very credible narrator of his own one-man show, a no-nonsense hardman turned philosopher and what he tells us in the epilogue pertains as much to our daily lives, our response to fear, to systems of belief, and even advertising, as it does the the ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ that allows us to believe in Mikey’s agency… and our own.

Reviewer: Jackie Fletcher

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