The Sorrowful Tale of Sleeping Sidney, Barely Human Puppets. 13 May
This was a popular show, practically booked out and lots of fans of this company in the audience. The show centres on a somewhat dark and bleak part of Brighton’s murky history, way before the horrors of the Brighton Rock era. This narrative driven puppet show is a story of obsessive love, murder, and sweeties.
The seven puppets comprising this show are skilfully handled by Daisy Jordan, founder of Barely Human Puppets, a visual artist, puppeteer and performer living in the city. Often with puppetry the puppeteer melts into the background bit not in this show, she becomes a key part in the tale, as narrator and combatant to the figures, making for a comical approach to this grim tale, giving it a light amusing touch with her wandering puppet hands.
The main characters Dr Charles Beard and Christiana Edmunds the physician’s patient. As a treatment for Christiana’s ‘hysteria’ Dr Beard performs a certain kind of intimate massage for the fairer sex, which leads to a certain obsession with the good doctor. As a woman on the verge Christiana takes it upon herself to find a way to remove her lover’s wife from the equation with terrible consequences mentioned in the title of this play.
Running at one hour fifteen minutes, this was a long show and due to the layout of the room, it was at times hard to see clearly what was going on on stag;, it could benefit from being elevated so the audience could see better. The festivities were enlivened half way in by an interlude during which striped paper packages were handed round with beautifully created tiny programmes , a peppermint cream and a bottle of poison!
The second half of the show featured new characters, a terrible tragedy and a stint in Broadmoor Prison for the criminally insane with a very Victorian moral set in verse at the end of the performance.
I did love this show though and in particular the accompanying evocative sound track especially created for this by Kate Daisy Grant and featuring well-known local musician Nick Pynn of the Lost and Found Orchestra, and the skillful direction and stage management by Ulysses Black.
The show’s co-creator Daisy can be found regularly performing around the city, particularly at Bom-Bane’s – a little cafe and music venue run by musician Jane Bom-Bane. As a maker and manipulator of puppets, her work tends to explore the tension between the real and the imaginary; the delightful and the grotesque; and the sweet and the unsavoury.