The Tobacco Factory and the Brewery Theatre plays host to the Bristol Festival of Puppetry this week, an annual event which invites both local and international talent in a celebration of the art of puppetry.
Split between family fare and productions for more mature audiences, the bank holiday weekend was mostly given over to the former, with people of all ages attending those plays aimed at the young and the young at heart.
First, and perhaps best of the bunch, was The Enormous Turnip, an adaptation of the folk tale about an old married couple who plant a turnip seed in their garden only to see it grow to gigantic proportions and then have trouble pulling the vegetable from the ground.
No matter your age, it’s a hugely charming production, beautifully performed by its two actors, and featuring a genuinely outrageous ending, where the actors leave the theatre through the fire exit and cycle off down the street in a turnip-shaped caravan.
Slightly more traditional fare could be found in Saturday’s presentation of Little Red Riding Hood, a production from local theatre company, Soap Soup. Remaining quite faithful to its source material, it presents enough of an original twist that it largely succeeds, with entertaining spins on the wolf and the woodcutter.
Its spontaneity and cobbled-together aesthetic (where suitcases double for houses, bedsheets for fields, coffee cup holders for trees, etc) is also enormously appealing. It does sort of fizzle out at the end, but on the whole, it’s a fine play.
Little Red Riding Hood could also be found in Sunday’s presentation of The am-A-zing Thing, a play about stories and storytelling. Peter Grimm is a storyteller, continuing the tradition passed on from his famous ancestors, the Brothers Grimm.
His notions of tradition and strict adherence to the stories of old are challenged when he meets an old woman who forces him on a journey through those stories to unlock his own imagination and creativity. Its excellence lies squarely on the shoulders of its only performer, Daniel Lempen, whose skill and delicacy at navigating the plot of the production, as well as playing instruments, singing and manipulating the puppets is truly impressive.
Together, the three productions are an excellent example of presenting traditional stories with an original perspective that offers a new way of appreciating them. They are also excellent examples of the quality of the festival as a whole.