Theatre Delicatessen: a preview of Boris & Sergey’s vaudevillian adventure
Theatre Delicatessen’s event BBC Time Warp, aptly set in the old BBC Marylebone location, showcased a host of fantastic talent; however, the limelight was stolen by two faceless leather puppets: Boris and Sergey. Theatre troupe Flabbergast brings us the silliest duo, bouncing into the spotlight for an evening of bizarre and profane hilarity.
The journey begins with an introduction from Boris and Sergey, two leather-bodied puppets with exaggerated eastern-European accents and deep psychological issues. They play, they fight, Boris often called Sergey a “sexual deviant” or tells him that his “lipstick is poking out”. They flirt shamelessly with audience members whom they invite on stage for a game of poker, after of course assigning new names to the unassuming volunteers (Bilbo Scraggins for just one example) along with an equally sordid backstory to the invented characters.
Sergey is the dominant one and Boris (who has a lovely fluffy chest) is often victim to his abuse. The story unfolds in a strange cataclysm of bickering, fighting for attention, yelling abuse at each other with nods to a plethora of popular culture references, ranging from Michael Jackson to Tupac, alongside a recognisable musical soundtrack.
From vaudeville to adventure, the fantasy subplot then sees the two puppets on the run from The Dark Ones in a shambolic five minutes of action, accompanied by momentous music. The puppets cross rivers, race in cars – the pace quickens as does the musical tempo and then they halt to slow motion as they fly through the sky with an equally flawless choreography that resembles an action scene from the Matrix.
The technical brilliance of the six figures behind these two mavericks employed such professionalism that they became elements of the puppet’s characters. Flabbergast theatre draws upon the Bankuru style of puppetry and Henry Maynard, the director expressed that the actors who operated the puppets are visible, as they are not something that should be hidden. Ironically, by having such a presence, they were soon part of Boris and Sergey, and never interrupted the illusion. Sometimes subtle facial expressions from the actors would add richer characterisations to the puppets. It is a strange sensation staring into the eyes of a faceless puppet, and it does force the use of the imagination in a really natural way. The idea of puppetry is further explored as Sergey shouts at one of the actors to “move [his] fucking leg!” which, the actor having loosened his grip, had become limp and lifeless.
Alas, the loveable and despicable rogues have a horrific fate. As Boris is first to die, the actors slowly release him, and the puppet lies on the table, totally inanimate, Sergey is wounded and struggles to stand up as the actors lessen their control of him too, as he battles against death. The actors really are at the backbone of Boris and Sergey and the multi-layered character building and seamless choreography juxtaposed with ad lib tom-foolery make for a dark, humorous and truly engaging piece of theatre.
Photos: Paul Williams, Fragment Photography