Puppet Jam review by Shannessy Danswan

****.5 stars

Puppet Jam is the epitome of what Fringe Festival is all about. With a fresh concept and the facility to be bold, this company finds new ways to stir surprise with every sketch and song, resulting in a well thought out show that is inarguably clever and unashamedly unique.

Presented by The Puppetsmithery, produced by Anna Lehmann Thomson and directed by Philip Millar, there is no denying the collaborative effort that went in to putting on this big kids’ puppet show. Endearing personifications of household objects (i.e.: a jar of jam) took the audience back to a place of juvenile joy. Each scene was ensemble-centric and clear in its intent: effortlessly sharp and witty, but without buying into the stereotypical ‘crassness’ that adult cartoons or puppet shows often do.

Without overtly attempting to strive for political endeavour, Puppet Jam still managed to explore some undertones of political and social relevance. For example, when the puppeteers suggestively orchestrated the dirty, sleazy ‘Harvey Weinstein’ puppet, which was squashed by the ‘Me Too’ movement in anvil form. Or when ‘mother earth’ danced around as a giant blow up beach toy with Band-Aids attached to her curves. These pragmatic touches were non-confrontational reminders and reflections of the more dire circumstances we are currently facing socially and environmentally.

Then on the other end of the spectrum laid pure comedic relief.

From the bizarre ‘three little ghosties eating jammie toasties,’ to a giant (and terrifying) man in rat suit boogieing about in an unadulterated Broadway inspired fashion, to a Gumby-like Kate Bush whimsically dancing to ‘Wuthering Heights’, Puppet Jam kept the audience on their toes.

Speaking of keeping the audience guessing… their guest act for the evening (Georgie Rose & Akean Von Wolf) was also a beautiful addition to the comedy show as it provided a poignant point of difference to the entire experience. A poetic voiceover told the tale of a diver who fell in love with a mermaid and eventually drowned to his death. The puppeteers manoeuvred beautifully designed puppets gently and deliberately across a sea of fabric and wooden water.  This piece held so much artistry within it that I had to give it a special mention.

Now on to some technicalities…

Rattlesnake Saloon’s lighting rig was more than adequate to make this puppet show shine. Clever uses of LED’s saw rainbow lighting compliment a finger puppet drag show, and white lighting replicate a cinema, as two knee puppets on a date fumbled their way through popcorn, intimacy, and a fight with an angry dinosaur. The soundscape was even more impressive with wonderful music choices, which seamlessly meshed into voiceovers.

Honestly, there is so much to say about The Puppetsmithery’s Puppet Jam, but I would be giving it all away. All I will say is that I genuinely hope you see it at some point. There are very few qualms I had with Puppet Jam. Perhaps some messy scene changes could have been cleaner and a consistent actor voicing the ‘Jam’ puppet would have been satisfying… but overall this show received a standing ovation on my end for sheer originality.