Created by: Simon Morley and David Friend
Reviewer: Deborah Parry
The universe has a history of drawing things together- strawberries and cream, Laurel and Hardy, rhythm and blues. Penises and puppetry, however, isn’t the most logical of pairings and yet, sort of works.
This show started life in the late 90s as a calendar idea- a series of photographs showing off a range of penis poses that turned out to be slightly less successful, in terms of sales, than expected (can’t imagine why). So, creator Simon Morley decided to join forces with David Friend to thrust their instillations upon live audiences instead, and the rest – as they say – is history.
It is difficult to know how Puppetry of the Penis has, if at all, evolved over the years but it’s certainly grown in popularity and one presumes that the format presented at the New Wimbledon Theatre is pretty typical of what’s on offer. Comedian Phil Nichols attempts to get us in the mood before the main feature with extreme crudeness that is probably pitched right but isn’t particularly clever – fat jokes… really? Are they still doing those? It’s also worth mentioning that his material seems to be environmentally friendly – in that it’s been recycled since the early 2000s (at least). Nevertheless, a bit of audience participation proves crowd-pleasing, with no overt heckling, so job done well (enough).
Next comes the penises and there is that terrifying Medusa moment, following a build-up, of the big reveal where you’re not sure if you should look directly at them or lean back in your seat to get as far away from them as possible. And in case you’re wondering, no, of course, they’re not so mammoth that they’re visible from the back row of the balcony; there is a camera focused on the action and a screen shows us close-ups throughout the show. Once you do summon enough courage to have a gander, what you will see isn’t really puppetry at all – actually,genital origami is probably closer to the truth. Penises squeezed, pulled, slightly misshapen all in the name of entertainment and, actually, it is rather funny and, yes, quite impressive. There is no doubt skill in making a penis look like a hamburger or the Loch Ness Monster but, depending on your tastes (and how inebriated you are), after a few examples you may find that the novelty has worn off and really it all becomes a bit clinical.
The performers do an excellent job at keeping the tone of the piece light-hearted and consistent, with an element of everything being ‘tongue in cheek’. They are great showmen, extremely likeable and endearing – which is odd because you’d assume that we would be so mesmerised by their appendages that an expression of personality would get slightly lost but, in reality, they make the gimmick work. Ultimately, though,
Ultimately, though, Puppetry of the Penis is a bit of cheeky throwaway entertainment that is alright, especially if you’re on a hen do or adrunken night out but it probably is best suited for the fringe. For most theatre-goers, the joke will probably wear thin pretty quickly and you’ll find yourself walking away feeling slightly unsatisfied, rather than gagging for more.
Runs until 12 November 2016 | Image: Contributed