This review was written for This is Cabaret
Back from Edinburgh, with rave reviews up their tiny belts and a trail of crystal meth fuelled destruction in their wake, Boris and Sergey have returned to London for a series of adventures in the Arcola Tent and Soho Theatre. And who could resist the chance to spend an evening in the company of a pair of leathery characters with dubious eastern European accents, especially if they’re barely a foot tall?
Cabaret often creates a heightened world where colours burn a bit brighter and everything is a performance. Add puppetry to the mix and you get a show where the act of performing is laid bare more than ever. Our two hosts – handsome bunraku puppets stitched from slowly ageing leather – each require three humans beings to operate them.
The tiny stage is always surrounded by people, who all channel their focus and energy into bringing the foul-mouthed, devious brothers to life. One of the highlights of the show is the puppets’ self-consciousness. Throwing off the controlling hands of one of his operators, Sergey realises he is paralysed without her. Puppet existential crises are fascinating to watch.
On a chilly Saturday night in a half empty Arcola Tent, a somewhat tremulous audience is easily convinced by Flabbergast Theatre’s accomplished puppetry. There was never any doubt in Boris or Sergey’s stage presence, but there’s an awkwardness between the puppeteers and their audience as they improvise around invited interjections.
That said, the show is good fun and elicits loud laughs. The duo’s eccentric celebration of the golden age of Vaudeville features episodes such as Sergey balancing on a blood orange and then tumbling into a sea of thumbtacks; Boris doing an excellent impression of Kate Bush; and a hapless game of ‘Puppet Poker Pit’ where Sergey manages to lose his soul. Despite their foul mouths and the slightly awkward atmosphere, Boris and Sergey clearly charm the audience. And this is no mean feat – they don’t even have eyes.