[201605] Tink Tank

[201605] Tink Tank

Bunk Puppets @ Garden of Unearthly Delights – The Factory

12:30pm, Sat 13 Feb 2016

I’ve loved Bunk Puppets’ work over the years, and even when the show isn’t at its most polished (as with Slapdash Galaxy early in 2012) there’s still a lot of enjoyment to be had simply from observing the results of Mr Bunk’s imagination.

But I was a little surprised to see Mr Bunk taking a seat with us in a humid Factory at the beginning of the show, and two new puppeteers – neither of whom I could recall having seen before – taking the stage. And they’re amiable chaps, easily engaging with the children in the audience (a fair few families were in), and their exaggerated movements (as they elaborately twisted arms and torsos to create the appropriate shadow source from their patchwork clothing) were a delight.

Narratively, there’s a small cast of characters – a baby in a pram, a cow, and a rooster – and a quirky story that saw the three navigating a series of environments. Sequences of land-based travel were shadow-cast using a familiar Bunk trick – a hand-rolled surface onto which shrubbery and rocks were frantically placed – but the standout segment was when the characters were trapped in a convincingly turbulent sea: a large fabric cloud (a parachute, perhaps? or maybe a balloon?) was pumped full of air, and the puppeteers used blue torches inside the swirling fabric to create an unlikely shadow stage.

But even that bit felt like it went on too long… and there was a bit of a feeling that some of the shadow sources were perhaps a little too creative (or insufficiently rehearsed). And the dark tone of proceedings (un-stuffing, and then re-stuffing reviving a teddy bear?) seemed a little heavy for the some of the kids in the audience… But when you have something as clever as 3D puppetry (using offset two-colour light sources), it’s easy to forgive a few rough patches.

As mentioned before, I’d been surprised to see Mr Bunk – Jeff Achtem – sitting in the audience throughout Tink Tank… but Achtem is still credited with writing the show, and it’s still full of his humour and creative aesthetic and lo-fi process. But I can’t help feeling that the cast & crew were still feeling the show out a little; whilst entertaining, it lacked a lot of the polished process that I associate with Bunk Puppets. Still, maybe that’s to be expected this early in the season.

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