Puppet preview

limbardo_oli_matt (c) Gianluca De GirolamoA little preview piece I wrote last week for the marvellous Londonist website


The shapes thrown by the dancing milkshake straw were truly impressive. It glided, it soared, it did back flips and it did high kicks. In fact, its moves were nothing short of majestic. We knew that straws were flexible and fun – a drink with a straw is a drink with character – but had no idea an audience could be gripped by one as it danced across a blacked out stage, masterfully worked by a circus master and a couple of chop sticks.

The Puppet Grinder Cabaret returns to the charming Little Angel Theatre tonight and tomorrow after a trip up to Edinburgh. The London adult puppet scene is thriving, audiences love it and Oli – Oliver Smart, the brains and the brawn behind the dancing milkshake straw – says the art form has a high profile in theatre, opera and film at the moment.

This Londonista has been taking puppetry classes at the Little Angel this year. It’s the tiniest theatre ever, but is wrapped in a storybook kind of magic. When you’re waiting outside for the doors to open, you can peer through a dusty window into the puppet makers’ workshop that is full of many magical creatures, suspended in the half gloom. Lessons take place in a nearby church hall and cover everything from shadow puppetry to working with found objects.

Oli specialises in making puppet magic with discarded things he’s found. The Suitcase Circus, a collaboration between Oli and his friend Matt, is a joy to behold, where objects you always thought you knew and understood like gloves and teapots find new life as moody and eccentric cabaret stars.

We’ve been to a couple of past Puppet Grinder Cabarets and they’ve been brilliant. If you don’t have plans already we’d definitely recommend trying this out. The line up this weekend includes Magdalena the Mysterious and Shitty Deal Puppet Theatre as well as Suitcase Circus, plus films from Sarah Wright, Bjorn Verloh and Henning Thomas. Go and witness the milkshake straw in glorious action for yourself!


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