Sunday, 30 March 2014

Henson Alternative’s Puppet Up! – Uncensored, March 29, 2014 ****

By Jim Henson Company 
Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Princess Theatre, until April 20, 2014 
Star rating:****
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Full review also online in Herald Sun. KH

 Provocative puppet improvisation to make Kermit blush

Think of The Muppet Show and Whose Line Is It Anyway? colliding with an X Rated movie in an enormous accident of improvisational comic puppetry and you have Puppet Up! UnCensored.

These provocative, Henson puppets get away with murder – or, rather, with lurid language, sexual innuendo, graphic action and swearing to make Kermit blush.

The 60+ puppets include aliens, animals, humans, plants, sea creatures and a horde of hotdogs on sticks.

Six dexterous, hilarious puppeteers not only animate these creatures but also improvise stories, characters and songs.

We see onscreen puppet action while simultaneously watching the puppeteers below with hands held high, manipulating their creatures to create the onscreen illusion.

The audience can’t relax either because host, Patrick Bristow, demands suggestions for locations, titles, names and jobs, or hauls participants on stage.

One volunteer manipulates a puppet that is being interviewed for the job of Death and finds out how hard it is to watch a monitor, animate a puppet over your head and talk at the same time.

The R-rated material starts at the top of the show with a mischievous scene about, well, masturbation, a topic that becomes absurd with puppets.

Other outlandish scenes include a honeymoon during which two puppets make unusual use of bacon, a relay race with hotdogs and a bedtime story with a tsumani of dolphins.

In a kooky parody of a Bond movie theme tune, a deadly dull villain called Michael bores people to tears, then in Toorak Wankers, rich people sing about their lives in the style of a Stephen Sondheim musical.

Interspersed between raunchy sketches are quirky screen recreations of vintage Jim Henson puppet sketches that remind us where it all began.

There are huge laughs in this show from puppets and puppeteers alike and, as is the case with improvisational comedy, even the screw-ups are funny.

Tip: Don’t sit at the front if you are scared of being dragged on stage.

By Kate Herbert

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