The curtain opens onto a balding, fat, quite ugly puppet that is looking around… when an arm stretches out from the side of the stage and bops him on the head, completely squishing him. Thus begins Famous Puppet Death Scenes.
After the opening death, we are introduced to the host of the show, Nathanial Tweak, an incredibly old puppet with a shock of white hair. He has put together this collection of famous puppet death scenes for our edification and education. He hopes to quash our fears of death, and allow us to see both the nature and soul of puppet art.
The style of the show is Pythonesque, filled with surreal and absurdist scenes. The action is completely unpredictable, and a lot of the humour is derived from the fact that whenever you expect something in particular to happen, invariably the opposite will actually occur. The comedy ranges from the vulgar to the more avant-garde, but all of the scenes are played completely straight – which helps the different styles to mesh surprisingly well.
Most of the death scenes are hilarious, but the show does manage to elicit some poignancy – for example the death of the ‘The Last Whale’ and the exit of the illustrious host, Nathanial Tweak, who had been seeking the perfect puppet death. The imaginative designs of the backgrounds and puppets are fantastic, spanning numerous different eras to bring each scene to life. A few surreal highlights include a giant pop-up book, a trunk containing the sea, and a top-down look onto a garden as the occupant leaves for an interstellar journey.
The set is also impressive, consisting of three large art deco wooden blocks in a crescent moon formation; the central piece has the largest curtained stage within it, and this is where most of the scenes take place. Above the curtains is a small screen which displays the name of each scene as they are introduced. The two end pieces have large doors that allow the actors and the puppets to enter the performance area.
And those puppeteers – three men, one woman – are an integral part of the show in their own right; as actors, their performances greatly enhance the humour, and allow for greater interaction with the many different styles of puppets used. In one case for example, two of the puppets are worn almost like trousers by the puppeteers, as they wreak havoc on a small plastic toy farm that had been the location of the previous, slightly disturbing, scene.
Famous Puppet Death Scenes is very odd, and utterly hilarious. The scenes (and deaths) come thick and fast, and everyone will find something to enjoy and laugh at… even if it is just as simple as watching someone get bopped on the head.