Beowulf @ Sweet Grassmarket

'Theatre', Jeffrey Smith / CC
Photograph: 'Theatre', Jeffrey Smith / CC

Verdict: Highly Recommended

Genre: Puppetry

Venue: Sweet Grassmarket

Website: Atomic Force

Company: Atomic Force Productions

Lowdown

A contemporary version of the Anglo-Saxon epic, combining tabletop and shadow puppetry, live music and poetry.

Review

Beowulf is brought to life with charm and humour as Atomic Force Productions present a puppetry version of the classic to the Fringe festival.

Narrator Tom Dussek has a great voice for storytelling, and is slightly reminiscent of Peter Serafinowicz in that respect. One issue is the large book Dussek holds, at times it is easy to see the pages which clearly do not hold the tale of Beowulf, this breaks some of the magic and reminds the audience that this is merely staged.

The puppets are nothing particularly special, however they are manipulated well and there are many nuances such as a small turn of the head, or a slow body movement that bring great humour and realness to them. As the performance progresses it is easy to get completely sucked into their world and you forget that these are mere puppets, the puppeteers feel only as an extension of the puppets themselves and they move and act accordingly to reiterate this.

Lighting techniques are used well, especially in terms of the Beowulf/Grendel online neurontin battle though during most of the performance the lighting across the room is too bright and makes it difficult to get drawn in instantly as there is great awareness of being sat in a room full of people watching puppets, the performances are quality enough to change this however but setting the scene earlier on would make for a richer performance.

The set is unadorned and props comprise of two ladders, a large chest, a length of rope, and a white sheet. It is remarkable that with only these and four puppets such imagination is elicited here. The text is naturally lyrical and is made more so by the performers who seem to put their all into creating something as imaginative and magical as they can.

This creative version of Beowulf is wonderful for children as it has humour, heroes, monsters, and battles but it is also intelligent and requires audiences to use their imagination. It is also wonderful for adults alike, the humour is not age specific and any adult who says they do not enjoy monsters and battles and even some puppetry is fooling only themselves.

This review originally appeared on FringeReview and is reproduced in partnership with their permission.

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Christine Lawler 42 Articles
Christine has a passion for literature and has been a closeted writer since childhood. Other passions include theatre, film, and all things geeky. She lives in Glasgow with a cat named Molls and a tortoise named Haruki Kabuki.

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