Blind Summit have in the past collaborated with companies including ENO and Complicite, providing puppet sequences of incredible inventiveness for productions including Shun-kin and A Dog’s Heart, but the company also makes striking work of its own. Inspired by the writings of Charles Bukowski, Low Life featured puppets wreathed in cigarette smoke and engaged in balletic duets with whisky glasses. Their current production is, if anything, even more dazzling, a piece of puppet existentialism full of visual wit.
The Table takes the form of three loosely connected sequences. The first of these features a ‘three-man Japanese puppet with detachable parts’ that lives on the table of the title. The puppet, operated by Mark Down, Nick Barnes and Sean Garratt and voiced by Down, has a wizened cardboard face, a pliable fabric body and a gruff, weary demeanour all of its own. The puppet readies itself to perform a real-time account of the last 12 hours of the life of Moses, but he is distracted in his efforts by an interloper at his table, a silent woman who refuses to acknowledge him. He makes increasingly vigorous attempts to engage with her but to no avail. It ends in a captivating mixture of battle and dance, and while you can see all of the puppeteers’ movements and manipulations, the puppet itself feels
For the second sequence, the set is transformed into a kind of a gallery with three picture frames lit from beneath. Within these frames, eerie disembodied faces float into view. They begin to move with increasing speed, seemingly multiplying as they do so, until they are whizzing from frame to frame like comets.
The final section of the show features no puppets, just a brief case and a stack of sheets of paper, but through this medium an epic story unfolds, a kind of living flick book set to the swell of Elgar. It’s ingenious in its simplicity; very, very funny and impeccably timed.
The company cites its inspiration for the piece as Samuel Beckett and Yves Klein and it’s possible to see those influences at work, but the piece also works on its own terms, it’s an intricate, witty and often astonishing piece that’s as exciting as it is fun to watch.