Strangelings, Baker’s Revolt / Moving People, The History Men

Review in Issue 16-3/4 | Autumn 2004

The Strangelings' show is a yeasty street theatre piece that follows a group of Marxist bakers in their attempts to lead a revolution in our culinary and social habits, proudly proclaiming the liberation slogan of ‘I'm a Baker!' Although not even a dozen-strong they seem like more as they wrestle with flour, yeast, water, sugar, salt and oil, the ingredients needed to free us from the tyranny of the white sliced loaf, symbol of capitalist oppression. The show is built around two large ‘props'. First a large white van, from which pours staging, props and a revolutionary soundtrack. Onto the staging launch our bakers: flipping, juggling and balancing their way through the narrative. The second is a long zip-wire, on which a torpedo bread-roll hangs, along which our bakers will attempt to storm the mansion.

One brawny baker affixes a TV aerial to link to other bakers around the country and the signal is projected onto a stage atop the van. Then in a denouement of evocative pathos a brave baker is struck down. At this moment, the crowd falls silent and from the distance emerge a brass band solemnly playing Dvorak's Largo (the ‘Hovis theme'); an uneasy mix of laughter and sadness ripples through the audience. From this point on the game is up and with our dead baker buried in a loaf tin, the others disappear into the crowd leaving us to go forth and bake our daily bread. Packed full of wheaty-goodness – best served with tea and jam. Delicious.

Moving People's Jo Smith started her puppet career with Faulty Optic and the heritage is clearly visible, while the work is equally rewarding. With the puppets being constructed from a variety of found and secondhand objects, the narratives have a sense of emerging out of a stream of junk consciousness. This show comes in two parts, a promenade 'collection of data' and a theatre-based sequence of vignettes. What ties it together are the beautiful grey-blue 'boffin' puppets and their silent cataloguing of the human race, asking such questions as 'How wide is your smile? How long is your face? How big is your heart?'. As promenade characters, they have that pleasant invasive quality that people find hard to resist.

In the theatre-based piece they emerge and measure both the audience and a small skeletal primate, who kicks against captivity by invading the audience. From this then emerge two further vignettes – a rich man / poor man scenario and a forcefed turkey revolting against his captor. Each of these straddles comedy and pathos, allowing them to avoid being overly didactic or dry, but clearly emerging out of social issues. What this reminds me is how simple ideas can be, and how rewarding they are when carried off. It also highlights the pleasure to be found in puppetry, how it can salve the adult heart and leave you feeling lighter and more peaceful.

Presenting Artists

South Hill Park

Date Seen
  1. Jul 2004

This article in the magazine

Issue 16-3/4
p. 29