Review: Fish Pie

Review: Fish Pie

By Bella Todd 03/06/13

The winner of our Brighton Fringe Festival reporter brief, Bella Todd, reports back from Colossal Crumbs’ anthropomorphic piece of puppetry...

Judging by the excitable crowd and the students jostling for returns, we’re calling this one late: but Colossal Crumbs are heading for cult status.

A multi-disciplinary company who met through the Theatre and Visual Arts course at Brighton University, their puppet theatre recalls Jim Henson’s Muppets, Aardman’s animated epics, all manner of French films about the whimsical residents of apartment blocks, and Adam and Joe’s toy pop culture parodies. Their big, ugly-beautiful creations fuse with the human in new ways, blurring the line between puppetry and costume design.

Fish Pie begins with a fly. It buzzes up the aisle to the stage, thunks its head on the rusty green set, and is chatting excitedly to its wife on a tiny mobile phone when the lights go down with a splat. The fly, it turns out, has been trodden on by a fish – a sweater-wearing fish called Cuthbert with lamp-eyes, knock-knees and, yep, you heard right, feet. And so we’re introduced to the wildly surreal but symbiotic world of Colossal Crumbs: cinematic, detailed, poignantly anthropomorphic, free and easy with scale and physiology, and just a little bit sick.

Three sea-creatures are living in the same suburban backwater. Cuthbert is a tap-dancing loner who finds short-lived love with a bubbly crab who pops round to borrow sugar. Ludwig the prawn is a celebrated existentialist poser who loses his pincer-grip on the Tuna Prize for Contemporary Art. Myrtle is an aging sea cucumber on a misguided activist mission to liberate all the bottled gherkins in chippies from Bognor to Torquay.

There’s brilliant pre-recorded film work (including a hilarious mock Culture Show special on Ludwig), and the whole play is framed as a 1920s silent movie, replete with a tiny jazz piano-playing zebra. But most exciting to watch is the tight teamwork of the four puppeteers (Annie Brooks, Ulysses Black, Howard Sivills and Sarah Delmonte), and the ingenious lengths they go to to bring the puppets to life. 

Sivills crouches with a tube in his mouth to produce a single puff of smoke from Ludwig’s roll-up. Brooks makes her own body the sweltering scaffold for an enormous, quivering green Myrtle. When cardboard televisions in the characters’ living rooms start to host miniature puppet shows within shows, you know you’re watching a company for whom no vision is likely to prove too big, and no detail too small.


Images by Ivor Houlker.

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