Before I go any further: what a great title! Who doesn’t like a good pun involving sea birds and Shakespeare? Admittedly I can’t think of many others off the top of my head. Auk’s Well that Ends Well? Two Guillemots of Verona? Albatross and Cleopatra? No, that’s not the best, is it? Ah well, do write in if you think of any others.
But never mind that, let’s concentrate on the play: Bristol’s Open Attic Company travelled to The Shoebox Theatre to present ‘Much Ado About Puffin’; a classic retelling of the old tale of Man Meets Puffin, Man Loses Puffin, Puffin Finds Man. It’s a family-friendly production, effectively wordless, and instead told through puppetry, movement and clowning, wrapped in an evocative score, especially composed for the production.
Enchanting is the only word for this show. The story is simple and perfectly accessible: a man, who lives and works alone on two small islands surrounded by a lonely sea, lets struggling a seabird shelter in his cottage during a fierce storm. After a certain amount of puffin-related kerfuffle a friendship develops. Gentle and joyfully silly humour fills every moment as the man and the battle battle but then bond.
The performance cleverly plays out on two scales. Some of it is performed with the actor playing the man interacting with a life-size puffin puppet skilfully operated by a puppeteer. At other times the man is represented by a diminutive doll – worked by the actor – as he works on his rig, climbs over the islands and is buffeted in a boat by the savage sea. A whole world is deftly composed amid the whirl of the music and the frolic of the sound effects.
Fifty minutes flew past in a blur of laughter and joy. And afterwards the younger and older members of the audience were invited up on stage to explore the set, play with the puppets and talk to the performers. Hopefully the seeds of inspiration were sewn in the younger minds. I’m sure they were.
I’ll leave the last word to The Swindonian’s new Junior Theatre Correspondent (age 6):
“The puppets was interesting. The small puffins were gentle and the big puffin was heavy and cute. I thought it was puffin-ish and friendship-ish.”
I can’t argue with that, really.
For more of my thoughts on matters theatrical or otherwise, you can find my blog at summers2theb.wordpress.com. Warning, contains foul language, knee-jerk opinions and suspect grammar.