The Table 4 stars
Pleasance Dome (Venue 23)
"You don't get this in the Underbelly," quips one of the Blind Summit team as a man does a one-armed hand-stand, his bandy legs flailing in the air in body-popping style. Actually, you get quite a lot of that at the Underbelly, just not usually done by a puppet. The man in question is all of two feet high with a cloth body and an angular cardboard head. His voice is a gravely Tommy Cooper-like rasp and he has spent 40 years on top of a table.
The futility of such a limited existence, especially for a man with such noble ambitions, is what connects the show to the work of Samuel Beckett and Jean-Paul Sartre, two of the unexpected names the company credits for inspiration. I'm not saying Waiting For Godot lacks laughs – although I have my doubts about Existentialism And Humanism – but they were never a fraction as funny as this show.
Our dextrous man on the table top has ambitions to give us an "evening of epic puppetry" and a real-time rendition of the last 12 hours in the life of Moses. Operated bunraku-style by three puppeteers, and throwing in a hilarious lesson in the principles of object manipulation, he manages to find himself repeatedly interrupted in his task, not least by a "dramaturgically inconsistent" woman (Sarah Calver) whose silent presence only amplifies his loneliness.
He's an irascible old codger, but there's something in his indefatigability – a very Beckettian "try again, fail again, fail better" philosophy – that makes us feel protective of him. Through the gales of laughter, Blind Summit also makes us care.
The sequence is the centrepiece of a three-part show which demonstrates the dazzling inventiveness and breakneck precision of the internationally acclaimed London company. The four performers go on to bring three picture frames to life more magically than the walls of Hogwarts before turning all French on us to reduce a 1968-style crime movie back its individual storyboard cells.
"Acting," said Sartre, "is happy agony." The Table is a good deal happier than that.
Until 28 August
© Mark Fisher 2011
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