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Theatre Review by Melynda von Wayward
What: Swamp Juice
Where: The Substation
When: 14th, 21st & 22nd June
Performed by Jeff Achtem (Bunk Puppets)
Live music by Manny Fox (Nick Carver, Tristan Kelly, David Henry)
Swamp Juice is one of those shows that truly has to be seen to be believed. An absolute puppetry genius in my opinion, Jeff Achtem presents an array of somewhat endearing and freakish characters who take us on a strange journey into the adventures of one very strange little man - from land to ocean and finally the sky.
From the very beginning the audience is engaged by Achtem’s kooky method of communication - non-verbal noises that transcend language and make the genre of puppetry a perfect vehicle for people of all ethnicities - as well as his use of comedy and sound effects to accompany the characters along this quirky, swampy story.
Created out of seemingly ordinary materials - cardboard, pipe cleaners, tinsel etc - and cleverly combined with his own body and some very simple lighting, Achtem captivates and enthrals the audience with a masterful display of shadow puppetry, complete with subtle movements which only add to the overall brilliance of this show.
Unlike traditional puppetry, Achtem is not wearing black and is never hidden from the audience; in fact part of the beauty of this show is that one is never quite sure whether to look at him, as he weaves his puppetry magic, or the white screen where most of the shadow play takes place.
But just when you think the show can’t get any better, out come the 3D glasses and suddenly the whole experience is taken to a new level. I for one have never been to a puppet show where the characters are literally flying into your face and the audience, including myself, are literally squealing and squirming in their seats. Imax eat your heart out. What a hoot!
While I wasn’t totally convinced by the ending, in the grand scheme of the show this doesn’t really matter, because it is the journey and experience of seeing what one person can literally create out of a few pieces of scrap, a torch and a great imagination, that really matters.
With just the right amount of audience interaction, great comedy and a perfect live accompaniment by musical trio Manny Fox, Swamp Juice is a brilliant show that will wow the whole family. Go see it before it heads off on its regional Australian tour - you will not be disappointed.
5 Stars