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Puppet Paramour
Published on Wednesday, 09 May 2012

4 stars

Dip Your Toe at New Road (venue website)
5 May, 1:00pm-1:15pm, 1:15pm-1:30pm, 1:30pm-1:45pm, 1:45pm-2:00pm, 2:00pm-2:15pm, 2:15pm-2:30pm, 2:45pm-3:00pm, 3:00pm-3:15pm, 3:15pm-3:30pm, 3:30pm-3:45pm, 3:45pm-4:00pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

 Parental Guidance. Under-17's must be accompanied by an adult.

This is one of those weird, inspiring, almost-unreviewable Fringe "experiences", where the amount you take away is directly proportional to how much you put in. Actually, that's not quite true: everyone gets to take away a sock puppet. Perhaps I'd better explain.

Step into the Dip Your Toe bathing machine - reminiscent of a fortune-teller's caravan - and you'll meet local artist Boogaloo Stu, complete with a table-full of socks and a glue gun. Under your guidance, he'll accessorise your chosen sock with hair and eyes, until it's the spitting image (well, kind-of) of the person with whom you share your life. And if you don't have a partner, you can still play the game - making a puppet to match your deepest desires, or fantasies.

That really is all that happens, and if you play your cards close to your chest, I suspect you won't enjoy the experience at all. The magic starts when you choose to succumb to Boogaloo Stu's kindly inquisition... and continues as you rummage, child-like, through his puppet-sized dressing-up boxes. If you're halfway normal, you've never paused to wonder which particular stripey sock best represents your sweetheart - but you'll find, when you set your mind to it, that there is a right answer.

The androgynous Boogaloo Stu is an ideal host for an intimate craft session: he's calm and peaceful, a blank canvas, with a gentle demeanour which left me feeling I'd somehow known him all along. In his custodianship, the bathing machine becomes a secular confessional, where it's OK to share your secrets - because you are only making a sock puppet, and it is only a game.

On cold-hearted analysis, this fleeting performance doesn't have a huge amount to it, and even though a ticket's just £4 its cost per minute is relatively high. But it offers, in exchange, something almost priceless: permission to re-discover the delight of play, and a moment of reflection on the things which mean most to you. And that, when you think about it, isn't childish at all.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.