The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer [FringeTIX]
Weeping Spoon Productions @ Holden Street Theatres – The Arch
9:00pm, Fri 19 Feb 2010
Now this was Proper Fringe.
The Arch is dominated by a large white circular screen. Creator / performer Tim Watts appears, dressed in black with bulbous goggles. He sits at a nearby computer and writes out the opening titles – they’re projected onto the circular screen, then washed away with the story of Alvin Sputnik.
Alvin’s happily married, living with his wife on a tiny island atop the debris of a flooded world. Sadly, she falls ill; backlighting the screen allows us to see through it, and we’re privy to the quiet and poignant death of Alvin’s wife (performed in live-action, with Watts performing some beautifully restrained puppetry for the fading woman). Her soul, embodied in a bright light, leaves her body and descends to the depths of the ocean; Alvin dives in and tries to follow her, but reluctantly has to turn back.
Distraught, Alvin sees an ad on TV – the human race is launching a last-ditch effort to try and find a new place to live, a way to save humanity. Of course, this just happens to require an almost certainly suicidal solo trip to the sea-bed; Alvin, making his way to the human HQ, volunteers for the job.
Donning a special diving suit – and adopting an incredibly cute puppet form – Alvin starts his descent, stunningly portrayed in the form of projected animation with seamless transitions to / from puppet form. Along the way, he passed though the flooded cities, finds a bizarre disco, and then finds his wife’s spirit again. Chasing her through the ocean, there’s frolics with a giant whale (again, excellent puppetry), before the spirit leads Alvin to the final destination of his mission. The subsequent ascension is eye-wettingly wonderful, and the ending… well, I’m running out of superlatives.
I cannot rave enough about Alvin Sputnik. The story is wonderfully sweet, and the execution is amazing – as previously mentioned, the transitions between live action and projected action are perfect. The puppetry, too, is divine, with the diving Alvin being wonderfully realised – one hand acting as all his limbs, quickly flipping around to create a stunning sense of character. And the audio accompaniment is lovely – well, I’m bound to say that of any show that includes Electric Dreams in its soundtrack.
And all of this is the work of one chap, Tim Watts – one of those quite obscenely talented youngsters that make me proud to be paying good money to see stuff at the Fringe. A quick chat at the end of the show revealed him to be incredibly humble, and yet buoyed and almost giddy with the accolades that were being proffered unto him by the departing crowd. He deserves them all, of course: Alvin Sputnik is a beautiful show, chock full of emotional whimsy whilst remaining aesthetically spectacular. I’ve got a good feeling that this will be finishing in many people’s Top Show lists.