Artemis, the Merry Misadventures is a dark comedy performed with puppets, from Floral Rhino Productions. Artemis is a penguin who is dissatisfied with life at the South Pole – so he decides to go to Africa, where he plans on killing the king of lions and taking his place. He creates mischief and mayhem on his travels as he encounters a myriad of other creatures, all while battling his inner evil self.
In the opening scene we are introduced to Artemis and his friend Chip, another penguin, who for some unknown reason has a very strong American South accent. The back-and-forth dialogue between the two has some genuinely comic moments and this scene is the strongest of the show.
It also sets up the inner conflict between the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Artemis, but this rarely comes up again, and is never properly explored – which is a shame, as it was well done and potentially interesting. The show also toyed around with ideas relating to philosophy, modern politics and social issues, but, again, these were not properly developed and disrupted the plot.
The props and sets are all made from cardboard cut-outs, with many of the scenes requiring a performer to hold up items such as a boat, a bush and so on. The penguin and pelican puppets are cutesy and fun, being simple hand puppets with little sticks to control the wings. However, the rest of the puppets are a mess; the one representing a rhino looks like nothing of the sort, and I genuinely have no idea what animals the other puppets were supposed to be.
Many of the characters are played with very strong accents, from a South African rhino – which makes some sense – to a stereotypical Californian accent for the pelican, Frank. It was all somewhat confusing, though obviously hilarious to the cast, and it’s a shame that this wasn’t transmitted to the audience.
The show overran by about fifteen minutes, making it nearly two hours long: far too long to maintain the thin plot and ideas presented. It may have also contributed to the unprofessionalism on display, with one actor bursting out laughing throughout one scene and then, accidentally, nearly being pushed through the curtain at the back of the stage.
The main plot of Artemis is intriguing, but unfortunately the premise is let down very quickly by the bizarre accents and poor direction. The production could not decide what it wanted to be, and it ultimately became a chaotic show that lacked both humour and a coherent point.