The Last Great Hunt - Bruce - Photo by Jamie Breen

The Last Great Hunt: Bruce

The Last Great Hunt - Bruce - Photo by Jamie BreenCreated and performed by Tim Watts and Wyatt Nixon-Lloyd, part of Perth-based collective The Last Great Hunt, this show follows the award-winning and much-travelled, The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik. Utilising fewer props and effects than that show, Bruce features two performers using a roughly-hewn block of foam and a pair of white gloves to deliver a fast-paced and dynamic tale of love, loss, and space travel. This one puppet figure is manipulated to quickly transform into a variety of characters, wonderfully voiced by Tim, whilst Wyatt performs the hands and provides atmospheric sounds such creaking doors and gun shots. What might have been enjoyable enough as a vehicle for the puppetry and mime skills on display is rendered more completely absorbing by the finely crafted plot, full of clever flashes backwards and forwards.

The opening scene shows an astronaut preparing for re-entry and a return to his pregnant astrophysicist girlfriend, who is also his communications link down at mission control. A flashing red light signals imminent catastrophe, and the stress of the situation sends the girlfriend into labour. Much of the rest of the piece shows the events that precede this point in the narrative, after which it veers off along a wholly unexpected path, which I won’t spoil the surprise of. Much of the humour comes from the frequent signalling to the audience of how the various plot points are imminently to be achieved, and the piece is pitched and paced such that it is always one step ahead of the audience, cleverly anticipating our comprehension. The first minute of action put a smile on my face that stayed there for the duration, and frequently broke out into happy laughter at the show’s ingenuity and wit.

In style, there seems something quite characteristically Australian about the production. It’s clearly been very cleverly and painstakingly put together, but these skills aren’t ‘shown off’ so to speak. Rather, the makers’ effort is translated into the ease of our enjoyment, and the humour is similarly jocular and warm rather than self-consciously ‘clever’ or acerbic. The fast-paced scenes are augmented by quick changes to the soundscape and lighting, giving the narrative structure a cinematic quality. The tricks and techniques always serve the narrative, which is so well-constructed it’s not hard to imagine it being actually made into a live-action movie.

It may not provide insights into the nature of the human condition, but it does deliver a wholly entertaining performance full of charm, wit, and invention, and as close to a sure-fire Fringe hit as may be theatrically possible. It’s difficult to imagine that there can be many people who wouldn’t emerge feeling thoroughly pleased to have to seen it.

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About Matt Rudkin

Matt Rudkin is a theatre maker and teacher who creates work as Inconvenient Spoof. He has a BA in Creative Arts, an MA in Performance Studies, and studied with Philippe Gaulier (London), and The Actors Space (Spain). He was founder and compere of Edinburgh’s infamous Bongo Club Cabaret, concurrently working as maker and puppeteer with The Edinburgh Puppet Company. He has toured internationally as a street theatre performer with The Incredible Bull Circus, and presented more experimental work at The Green Room, CCA, Whitstable Biennale, ICA, Omsk and Shunt Lounge. He is also a Senior Lecturer in Theatre and Visual Art at the University of Brighton.