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Henry Maynard: Darkness and puppets

By | Published on Thursday 4 August 2016

Boris & Sergey

I think it’s fair to say that Flabbergast Theatre have wowed Team ThreeWeeks at recent festivals with their brilliant ‘Boris & Sergey’ shows, in which the titular puppets cause plenty of mayhem.
The shows arguably push the boundaries of what puppetry can be, which is very much the aim of the company, as Flabberghast’s Henry Maynard explains…

Puppetry performances can often be seen as purely children’s entertainment and they sometimes stray onto the twee side of things, but at Flabbergast we have been interested in exploring puppetry for adults since our inception.

That is not to say that there aren’t a great many family-orientated puppetry shows that are indeed excellent – and some can also be quite dark. However, we are interested in making performances that are not hindered by the sensibilities of parents with regard to what their children are exposed to.

We take an irreverent approach to our subject matters and try to dispense with pretension (the other trap), unless it is a characteristic of one of the puppets. We deal with the gamut of human experience, touching on pathos, whilst maintaining a healthy dose of hilarity. That said, we are sticklers when it comes to technique and are proud of our puppeteers’ dedication to detail.

Puppetry is a magical art form with huge potential and punching power and we think that it’s a shame that the overriding opinion – other than those in the know – is that it is only for children.

We aim to engage the 18-99 bracket and our flagship characters Boris & Sergey have inspired a loyal following for their debaucheries and antics. When we improvise on stage with our puppets, we do not always do so in the typical way that requires structure and games to work.

In our latest installment of the Boris & Sergey Saga, the Balkan Bad-Boys walk onto stage with absolutely nothing planned and allow the strength of their characters, relationships and the skill of the six puppeteers to carry them through a hilarious hour of madcap shenanigans.

Because we do such a great deal of improvisation with Boris & Sergey they have grown and developed over the past six years into very complex characters that we feel express all the idiosyncrasies and contradictions of real people.

Puppets are also given a certain license by people, certainly more so than a human being, which means that the characters can be more abhorrent, violent or inappropriate yet still be loveable. You can go further and push more boundaries; often the person(s) operating the puppet are not associated as being responsible for the puppet’s actions lending a unique dynamic to interaction.

We also enjoy using the idea that the puppets live in our world and are aware of their status as puppets. We often refer to the puppeteers and the virtuosic performances rather than trying to hide them, pretend they aren’t there or have the puppets live in a spate ‘puppet world.’

If you see Boris & Sergey out and about be sure to introduce yourselves, I can guarantee you will have a good time, although you may come to regret it later.

‘Boris & Sergey’s Preposterous Improvisation Experiment’ was performed at the Assembly George Square Theatre Omnitorium at Edinburgh Festival 2016.