What happens when a fairytale ending isn’t a fairytale ending? That’s the question posed by Blind Summit’s new show, which revisits Jack of beanstalk fame after he’s outwitted the giant and come away with the spoils. In the process, fairytale becomes metaphor, as Citizen Puppet takes a sideways look at global financial crisis and recession.
In the ironically tiny Massiveille, life is good. Puppets live in comfort and wealth, borrowing unrestrainedly from local millionaire Jack. That’s until a giant falls from the sky without warning, swiftly followed by the beanstalk that kept the village awash with cash. Now, the citizens are picking up the pieces, settling on a verbatim theatre show as the means for processing their shock. “We need to talk about it,” they all nod in agreement.
Jack and the Beanstalk as an analogy for the financial crisis is a neat idea, and Blind Summit give it some enjoyable flourishes. Jack, it turns out, has been peddling “golden egg ISAs” and “bean stocks”, selling everyone their own happily ever after. There’s also an acute suggestion of the sheer ridiculousness of the banking system and the circumstances of its breakdown, which is little less far-fetched than giants and talking harps.
The show, though, is just one long riff on this single note of wit. The material is more suited to a short skit than a full hour, relying heavily on its comedic cast of puppets to pad out the narrative. The inhabitants of Massiveille are a vivid bunch of characters, though they draw from familiar stereotypes: the posh princess, the Daily Mail reader, the “artistic” druggie. And the puppets themselves are astonishingly expressive, with all the craft and care you’d expect from Blind Summit.
But it’s Mark Down’s staging that’s the real issue. All of the puppets are seated throughout, speaking to us from benches or boyband-style stools. It makes for a pretty static picture, in contrast with the chaos of the events described. The only movement comes in the form of awkward, swooping entrances and exits and strange leaning motions. Perhaps the intention is to evoke something of the catastrophe’s precarious aftermath, but it’s nowhere near enough to give this production the dynamism it’s sadly lacking.