The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik, Underbelly, Edinburgh
Wednesday 24 August 2011
The world has warmed, the seas have risen, but Alvin Sputnik is dealing with a personal grief - the death of his beloved wife.
Trying to distract himself, this "unlikely hero" goes on a journey to the bottom of the ocean to try to explode a new, undamaged planet out of the earth's core, thus saving human kind.
It's a mildly odd scenario for sure, but this solo show from Tim Watts is as technically accomplished, bittersweetly funny and ultimately moving production as you'll see anywhere on the Fringe.
The stage is dark; a large circular screen has sketchy, charming black and white cartoons projected on it to tell of Alvin's odyssey. But Watts also brings the action off the edge of screen, with clever use of torches, puppetry and his own fair hands. There are magical moments of imaginative character creation, where a doodle is brought to life, that make the entire audience coo.
Yes, it's high on whimsy, to an extent which may grate on some people's nerves. With live ukulele plucking, naive lyrics, and prerecorded plaintive twanging guitar themes, plus that geeky animation, the whole thing is a bit Jeffrey Lewis does the Fringe. But I suspect that very few would be entirely immune to its charm.
While we are pulled, utterly rapt, into the world of the play, you know that behind the screen there must be a ferocious amount of work going on. Watts' skill is to make itlook like a breeze. Using projection, puppets, song, and all that lo-fi jazz might be a popular approach at the Fringe, but few carry it off with such apparent ease, not to mention wit and warmth.
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