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Boris & Sergey's Vaudevillian Adventure
Published on Monday, 02 September 2013

4 stars

Underbelly, Bristo Square (venue website)
31 Jul, 1-12, 14-26 Aug, 10:00pm-11:00pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

 Recommended for age 12+ only.

This fabulous creation from the eccentric Flabbergast Theatre is a puppet show with a difference. For one thing, the stuffed heroes Sergey and Boris use language that would make a sailor blush, and for another, they look like they’re straight from a dominatrix’s dungeon. But unlike some other shows at the Fringe, the appeal isn’t just in the bawdy humour; it’s the breathtakingly executed puppetry which makes for a winning combination. There’s a fast pace to the show and I was impressed at the amount of action squeezed into only an hour.

When the audience first encounters the manipulative Sergey and the not-very-bright Boris, they’re participating in a variety act. This leads to various skits, with the absolute high point being a dance routine to Kate Bush’s  ‘Wuthering Heights’ – all very funny. Eventually Sergey and Boris build up to what they’ve been promising all evening: puppet poker. It’s obvious from the start that they’re not going to play by the rules, but instead they plan to con members of the audience out of money. Two unlucky victims are chosen, and in the show I saw there was some brilliant improvisation along with lots of mischievous mockery. Eventually, forced by circumstance, Sergey makes a pact with the devil – which leads to a wild chase scene for the finale.

On top of this, throughout the show we see episodes from their past, starting with their birth – all of which offer an excellent chance to show off the skills of the puppeteers. Effortless as much of it appears, there’s actually a whole crowd of men and women on the stage, moving Sergey and Boris around.  There’s a great balance between the artistic and the entertaining, which is partly helped by the jokes about drama school and the puppeteers themselves, all of which make sure they don’t take themselves too seriously.

For some, the swear count from the mucky puppets and their frequent crudity might be offputting. That said, it really is very funny indeed, so all is forgiven from my point of view. Sergey and Boris are – somehow – weirdly likeable creations that can just about get away with this behaviour.

It made me laugh a lot, I loved the high technical skill, and I even felt a bit worried for what was going to happen to our leather clad anti-heroes. In short, Boris & Sergey’s Vaudevillian Adventure was thoroughly entertaining on a lot of levels – a rare find for a Fringe show.  I’m already looking forward to whatever Flabbergast Theatre unleashes on the world next year.

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