I was somewhat weary and wondered as I waited whether taking a punt on this late night American puppet cabaret was a decision I would quickly regret. One hour later I was invigorated and giddy with delight, having stumbled across a performance so far up my alley it actually made me wince.
Fairy Tale Theatre: 18 and Over is a collection of original fairy tales with morals and lessons for adults, such as The Tale of the Bipolar Bear and the Co-dependent Eskimo. It is created by J. Michael Feldman and Lindsey Bowden
Using hand puppets, camp costumes and a few colourful props, the cast of six deliver consistently hilarious and wonderfully realised woodland tales that satirise human flaws and foibles. They are led by a curly haired force-of-nature, who plays the part of the sardonic narrator and most of the central characters. Like a smug 60’s Disney TV host he begins his introductions sat on a trunk in a pitch-perfect kitsch sweater, and within 15 seconds I was pretty sure I was going to love this show.
Much of the comic power comes from the super smart script, which is full of wit and whimsy but also constructs the surreal tales into proper narrative arcs that lead to satisfying endings. They also provide some actually quite insightful observations on the nature of our frailties and pretensions – whilst being really terrifically funny. The cast do great justice to the text, setting about their task with manic exuberance through very funny character voices, and briskly inventive choreography.
The first tale features two squirrels struggling to negotiate a very modern relationship in a world without rules. Then there’s the tale of Frisky and the Fag Hag, a kind of ‘what to expect from the gay scene’ for straight women, featuring cats. In the next tale a self-absorbed fly longs to put on a solo show, much to the consternation of his woodland friends, and features the truism: “Self-promotion; if I don’t do it, no-one will!” The final tale is of the horse whose envy of the unicorn, led to a fateful trip the surgery of Dr Alpaca. This is a mad, bad, sad, and sick treatise on vanity and self-loathing whose comedic climax is ‘I-can’t-quite-believe-what’s happening’ funny, and leaves the audience in a delirious frothy mess (Apparently, Unicorns, having cloven hooves, are Kosher. I will say no more than that)
The company alternate between two shows with a different set of tales, and I for one will certainly be back for more of this fantastic stuff.