Bunk Puppets have an extensive touring history, garnering awards at Adelaide and Edinburgh Fringes. Originally just Mr Bunk (Canadian Jeff Achtem), the act now includes James Pratt. Their schtick is a form of shadow puppetry often employing simple household items.
Unlike other performances with puppets, Bunk Puppets allow you to see how their craft operates. Often this means a flurry of activity as our performers adopt, adapt and discard objects in quick succession to keep a scene moving along. Seeing how the magic is made, especially some of their cute means of producing character movement, only adds to the experience.
It’s also fun to see how Achtem isn’t just making sound effects, he’s acting a role while he does them. Whilst other Bunk Puppets offerings have been a collection of vignettes, this is a story with some subplots, told at a fairly leisurely pace. This gives us the opportunity to meet Achtem’s various puppet characters, in scenes joined together by Pratt’s roles, through which he shows mastery of a range of accents.
Essentially the story is about the struggling fun park at Mystery Beach, and a strange “bottom feeder” creature caught by Jessica, the park administrator’s daughter, when out fishing. There were plenty of visual surprises, such as through the fun park’s captive animals, and ultimately, Jessica’s catch.
Things change when the bottom feeder starts to show its special talents. After a little necessary setup, the style of presentation morphs into something more immersive. Suddenly, we’re in an action film with high-octane soundtrack. The web Fringe guide features an (appropriate) coarse language warning, which is unfortunate as I suspect youngsters would enjoy the story.
The company name must be self-depreciating, as Stark and Dormy is certainly not a load of bunk – its big fun by talented performers. If you view a Fringe festival as a chance to see something novel and a bit eccentric, this is a show for you.
Stark and Dormy
Studio 1 – Arts House, 521 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne
Performance: Saturday 15 September 2018 – 7:45pm
Season continues to 29 September 2018
Information and Bookings: www.melbournefringe.com.au
Image: courtesy of Bunk Puppets
Review: Jason Whyte