Boris and Sergey’s Astonishing Freakatorium presents, in puppetry, the freak show produced by brothers Boris and Sergey. It is a comic romp through a vaudevillian freak show that has more to do with absurdity than horror. It’s good fun.
A world of the macabre, malevolent and Machiavellian manipulation.
Boris and Sergey’s Astonishing Freakatorium is featured as the second of two pieces offered by Flabbergast Theatre in this season of their favourites. It is currently playing at Wilton’s Music Hall, a venue well suited to the unearthly atmosphere of the production.
Boris and Sergey’s Astonishing Freakatorium follows the one-man show Tatterdemalion and has a troupe of 6 puppeteers but some shared features. It presents, in puppetry, the freak show produced by brothers Boris and Sergey. Sergey takes on the well honed character of the narrator with a nicely timed opening spiel from an armchair. Boris is the straight side kick to the richer, more camp Sergey.
The magic of puppetry is the moment when a puppet becomes more dominant to the audience than the handler, or in this case, handlers. The brothers have three handlers, the main puppeteer on the head and one hand, another on the feet, and yet a third on a hand and whatever else needs moving. Most of the other puppets in this show also have more than one handler. The complexity of the background rather takes over from the puppet which, at times, gets lost in a sea of arms and faces. The nuances of movement must be difficult to co-ordinate between so many handlers and is all the more noticeable for its absence after moments when it’s nailed.
Notwithstanding this there is plenty of magic in the show. The production excels in moments of improvisation and with the abundant interaction with the audience. Boris and Sergey managed to find a talented group of audience members who for the most part needed little encouragement to participate in kind. Last night though there was one audience member who in the beginning, clearly wished that she was anywhere other than on the stage. Her reluctance made for uncomfortable viewing and it was a relief when the cast managed to engage her in the scene.
The Astonishing Freakatorium was interesting. Freaks amongst freaks is tricky to pull off in puppets. The freakiest part was the cock fight between Boris and his pet hen. Authentic moments of horror and grief from Boris made this scene live. By the final scene there was a collection of dead puppets on the floor to be collected.
The simple setting was enhanced by subtle lighting and a moody soundtrack with most of the design being focused on the puppets.
Boris and Sergey’s Astonishing Freakatorium is undoubtedly the work of a skilled group and is one of a stable of shows featuring Boris and Sergey. They have already impressed audiences and will no doubt continue to do so.