So there’s a puppet, and a table, and three puppeteers … and, oh, did I mention it all happens on a table? Well, “happens” might be a strong word, because nothing much does. But that’s kind of the point. With kinship to Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, aimlessness is really the aim of Blind Summit Theatre’s The Table. The vacuum is then filled with ruminations, diversions, and antics by Moses. Yes, that’s the puppet’s identity — Moses from the Bible, the author of the Torah who is isolated and banished from the Promised Land, and who paradoxically has written about his own death and unmarked grave. Who better to have an existential crisis? “If you don’t enjoy puppetry, and you’re not a table enthusiast,” muses Moses, “then it makes for a very long evening.”
Blind Summit’s skilled puppeteers Mark Down, Sean Garratt, and Irena Stratieva owe the basic techniques of their craft to classical Japanese Bunraku theater. But it is Down’s gruff voice and comic sense that carry the show. This group values improvisation, and many moments during Wednesday night’s show appeared to be hilariously unscripted.
What this Moses does do for his hour and a quarter onstage is to test the edges of the theatrical experience (not to mention the table) by candidly discussing the illusion of puppetry, his own origins (a puppet originally designed for Blind Summit’s 1984, but cut from the cast), and even the commission of this piece by the Jewish Community Centre in London. He demonstrates the effects of physical comedy and comments upon and interacts with his puppeteers. The odd thing is, the more Moses deconstructed his own reality, the more real he became. After the show, it was Moses signing ticket stubs and posing with patrons for cell-phone pics — not his human operators.