What’s brilliant about this puppet parade of gruesome deaths is the seriousness with which it’s so silly.
Our host Nathanial Tweak, also a puppet, in fact a naked old man of a puppet, claims that these are the greatest death scenes from the greatest puppet shows in history. He asks us to empathise with the poor creatures, and to ruminate on our own inevitable demise. But each skit evokes, and then parodies, a genre of theatre or literature quickly and hilariously.
The titles of the scenes are fantastic. We have an extract from The Feverish Heart by Nordo Frot which sees a puppet get bashed on the head with a giant fist; there’s a scene from The Ballad of Edward Grue by Samuel Groanswallow, where a man dresses as a deer in a Poe-like cautionary tale.
With some beautifully made, brilliantly manoeuvred puppets, the pomposity of ‘high’ literature is properly pricked. The creatures themselves range from tiny to life size, naturalistic to grotesque, all in incredible detail and with little comic touches.
Canadian company Old Trout Puppet Workshop first performed the show 12 years ago, but during the years it’s been updated as new puppets have faced their demises in ever-innovative ways. Still, there are slow scenes and jokes that are milked too long which make the show drag at points.