Review: Edinbugh Festival

Edinbugh Festival
By Leon McDermott The Scotsman

There is something not quite right about the desire to stand on stage talking to a miniature version of yourself, or to a small stuffed animal. Or, indeed, to a small blue and red alien with a sinister grin and bulging eyes.

In the course of a very short hour, Strassman talks to all three and often holds a conversation between himself, Chuck, his cynical, bitter and abusive doll whose only desire in life is to be a real boy, and Teddy, a shy bear with a body image problem and a liking for chocolate.

Strassman's vocal ability is nothing short of astounding. The switch between voices is so smooth as to be almost unnoticeable, and Strassman's skill in physically manipulating whichever puppets he has to hand, brings them real anthropomorphic character.

As if this was not enough, he is also devastatingly funny. Chuck is a nasty but somehow likeable urchin, a twisted and foul-mouthed upstart reminiscent of Joe Pesci. Teddy is a pathetic nervous wreck of an animal, innocent and honest, the perfect comic foil to Chuck's semi-psychotic rambler.

Characters come and go, including a devious alien named Kevin. And it is very easy to forget they are inanimate puppets. Once Strassman draws you in with a quick-fire one liner, the puppets look for all the world as if they are real; the characterisation is so well-rounded that Strassman is easily able to engender audience sympathy for the neurotic Teddy, or revulsion at Chuck attempting to spit on the crowd.

However, this is all nothing compared to the finale, a masterpiece involving Satan, animatronic dinosaurs and Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. If being a ventriloquist exposes deep-seated psychological problems, then let us hope they are long lasting.

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