Devisors: The Company
Reviewer: Bethany Steer
Meet Fred, by the brilliant Hijinx Theatre in collaboration with Blind Summit, is an hour-long puppetry showcase that explores the character of ‘Fred’ – a two-foot-tall cloth puppet – and the map of decisions, ‘opportunities’ and challenges he comes across in his life.
With three talented puppeteers (Dan McGowan as the voice of Fred particularly stands out), some meta-direction (Ben Pettitt-Wade is the actual director, and also plays the director) and witty audience involvement, Meet Fred explores the many challenges we face in modern day society with both humour and poignancy.
Hijinx Theatre, a professional theatre company that prides itself on always including actors who have learning disabilities in their productions, has worked hard to make the performance truly inclusive – the dedication from both the students and trainers in making the production slick and professional is evident.
Inspired by Bunraku (a three-man puppetry technique originating from Japan, coined ‘extreme puppetry’), Fred’s puppeteers work cleverly together to portray a range of emotions and some staggering visual feats with amusing special effects.
With the potential roadmap of Fred’s life scrawled across the theatre walls in chalk – from ‘Hospital Appointment’ to ‘Date Night’ to ‘Brexit’ – the play explores the social constructs of our society which, through the eyes of Fred, are both absurd and amusing, and desperately sad.
The tongue-in-cheek skits at the Job Centre, the use of a dating app and Fred’s preference to return to his ‘box’, rather than continue to live in a world he doesn’t understand, come together to create an unusual piece – surreal in places and completely relatable in others.
A poignant production that makes you think – with dark undertones and equally heart-warming moments (particularly with Fred’s insistence that Martin Vick, the stage manager, ‘really is good enough’ to ‘play his legs’), it’s well worth a watch, and a very enjoyable way to pass an hour.
Runs until 2 July2016| Image: Contributed