Bunk Puppets get whacky in sci-fi theme-park adventure
By Lois Maskiell
You’re given a baseball cap on entering the theatre. Printed on the front of the cap is a fun park logo, a fun park where you’re about to have, or so a zoo keeper tells you “fun fun fun”.
Gee does internationally recognised Bunk Puppets’ latest production live up to its promise. In Stark and Dormy an alien invades a struggling theme park and causes serious mayhem and laughter.
Unlike many sketch shows, the segments are not randomly sewn together but situated in a clever and well-developed plot. A teenage girl miserably wanders the park trying to catch her father’s attention, though instead catches an extra-terrestrial surprise. Her father – the theme park owner – distracted by debt and his latest girlfriend clumsily deals with several employees and a hip restauranteur. This quirky bunch of characters plus more are all performed by James Pratt and Christian Bagin.
But take note: the tiny cast have mastered the craft of puppetry and comic acting to bring these characters to life. Versatile vocals, punchy one liners and deadpan humour are just some of their talents.
Whether you are a frequent puppet watcher or not, the use of shadow screens is sure to be a refreshing change from glaring squared-eyed at a digital device. Staged in a black box theatre, the sparse set exudes a sense of do-it-yourself creativity adding to the ingeniously comic flavour found in the whacky world of co-writers Pratt, Bagin and Jeff Achtem.
Jeff Achtem’s direction gives Pratt and Bagin the outside eye they need to let their comic book-esque sci-fi and social satire blend seamlessly. The hip chef sporting colourful spectacles and zany clichés – like sea urchin and armadillo specials – reminds you of your favourite farm-to-fork restaurant. The buck-toothed boy desperate for a movie date and the outspoken neighbour who can’t help but overshare all seem disturbingly familiar.
In true Melbourne International Comedy Festival style, a hint of audience engagement and fun activities are involved, though I won’t spoil you with the details. If you want to laugh like a kid in a room full of adults, this is the show for you.
Dark and Stormy runs at Cooper’s Malthouse until 21 April. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the box office on 03 9685 5111.
Photograph: Andrew Wuttke