Meet Fred at Summerhall
It’s a rough life for a puppet. You’re unsure of your place in the world, and you’re literally helpless without your puppeteers. Hijinx Theatre demonstrates this fact with charm and sensitivity through its reluctant star Fred in this minimalist but highly affecting show.
Fred is a cloth puppet operated using the Bunraku method, meaning that multiple puppeteers collaborate to animate him. One puppeteer takes control of his left hand, head and voice; another his right hand and torso; the last, both feet. Perhaps more than any other, this style of puppetry has the most potential to create realistic and human-like movement.
More impressively, Hijinx’s inclusive theatre philosophy means that the cast always comprises actors with learning difficulties. For this show, the actors joined a workshop run by puppetry theatre company Blind Summit and went on to devise Meet Fred along with Hijinx director Ben Pettitt-Wade. The limited time in which they mastered Bunraku renders their performance all the more commendable.
The parallels between the actors’ learning difficulties and Fred’s own circumstance form the crux of the show. As the latter tries his hand at job hunting, Internet dating and performing as a children’s entertainer, Fred encounters all manner of anti-puppet prejudice. When his career advisor threatens to cut his PLA (puppetry living allowance), forcing one of his puppeteers to resign and thereby rendering Fred’s legs inanimate, the comment on the Tories’ disability benefit cuts is deftly emphatic.
Don’t fear; it’s as a funny a show as it is smart, with a great deal of meta humour stemming from Fred’s self-awareness. He takes offence when his date is more interested in the attractive hands of one of his operators than in Fred himself; later, he yearns to meet the person who made him.
Perhaps the show’s greatest strength is how it pits the most wonderful comedy against the blackest existentialism; prepare to be tickled and devastated in equal measure.
Meet Fred is on at Summerhall from 5th until 25th August 2016, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for Meet Fred here: