"Mr Punch on original strings"
by Rachel Knightley for remotegoat on 18/01/16

Aimed at three to five year olds, ‘Joey’s Fireworks’ is perhaps overconscientious of the need for slower scenes for the younger end of their audience spectrum. As always, the Puppet Barge conveyed an immediate sense of place and fun with well-chosen music and lighting. Joey’s dog is first to emerge from behind the curtain of the Big Top before his master, Joey the clown, follows him on to begin telling the musical story of Mr Punch. The dog’s movement was articulate and comical, which unfortunately pulled attention to the lack of expressive range of the particular marionettes used for the human characters in this show.

Songs and narration propelled a clear story and balanced a sense of tradition with the company’s own creative experiments, among the most successful being a mirroring game sequence between Mr Punch, disguised as a ghost, and the real ghost that lived on the roof beside Big Ben. Another delightfully odd sequence was Mr Punch’s nightmare of the dance of the sausages! Sadly, too much time was taken to establish and execute even these delights than the show could get away with. The show sold itself on the “USP” of Punch returned to his original strings, but he loses so much expression in this form and the hook really wasn’t strong enough. Children and adults in the audience did not connect with the puppets the way they often can as these particular marionettes had less range of expression and movement where more – if anything – was needed in a weaker story. The best images were the dog and ghost, as these were not speaking parts and we didn’t suffer from the sense of delay between word and action.

Adults and children were engaged by the puppets more because it’s impossible not to be, so in that sense this particular show is resting on its laurels. Traditional, successful elements like Punch’s famous catchphrase ‘that’s the way to do it’ came in right at the end, creating some last minute recognition and hilarity with previously silent children, and the engagement really came too late. While a slower pace is necessary for younger viewers, this seemed to slip between age groups.

Other recent reviews by Rachel Knightley
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