The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre are no strangers to the fringe scene. Their mix of bickering sock puppets, uncooperative props, songs and violence is back with their new show: Socks in Space! So, it wasn’t surprising that their show in Manchester was a packed sell-out. With new and old followers in evidence (including the marvellous home made homages to the socks from the ladies on the front row) for the final preview before Edinburgh.
This time the socks are preparing to jet off into space via a mix of film references, groan worthy puns and anarchic humour that results in a hilarious hour’s worth of entertainment. From invitations to the audience to do their favourite sci-fi live (One audience member shouts to see Return of the Jedi – quick as a flash one of the socks quips “Hello, I’m back”) through to a wizened David Bowie forgetting the lyrics to Starman it’s all here in a wonderfully irreverent show that takes in everything from Star Wars to The Avengers.
You’d have to be devoid of humour not to enjoy the Socks. Not every joke is a winner, but the quick fire nature of the set allows for a high ratio of uncontrollable laughter. A breathless song taking in nearly every comic book hero in existence is a highlight as is the Socks’ interpretation of Alien (along with impression of John Hurt).
Accessible to non sci-fi fans too, there is some classic socks material thrown in for good measure. And even mistakes happen, puppet maestro Kev Sutherland is quick enough to turn things around to his advantage with some fantastic ad-libbing. One such incident saw a figure of Captain America nosedive into an audience members drink resulted in a brilliant quip that Captain America could not appear anyone as he was now drunk! Beautifully timed and with an appreciative audience, it made for a brilliant night of entertainment.
I never thought that the humble sock could have so many ‘facial’ expressions, but they carry it off in such an consistently entertaining way that proves why they’re their in such demand. You denier wanna miss it this summer!
The Fiction Stroker gives The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre four strokes out of five:
Elsewhere across Manchester, I also saw a large chunk of a new sketch comedy troupe – The Ray Harryhausen Skeleton Orchestra (RHSO). Featuring the creme de la creme of fringe actors from across the region, RHSO featured a series of quick fire experimental sketches.
From Howard Whittock’s (Year of the Sex Olympics, Harvey) confectionary obsessed detective to Steve Cain’s (The Best) recurring and dominating Dark Warrior – who is stunted by his day job in office stationary most of these sketches are a mix of the bizarre and surreal. The majority of them are pretty funny – a long build up for a job interview results in a brilliant payoff and you don’t want your horoscope read by the UK’s worst astrologer.
Calling themselves a “showcase for great new comic sketch writing” and with contributors including Jess Lee (Diabetic Penguins) and Richard O’Neill (Temper) amongst others it delivers on its promise. Sure – not every sketch works, such is the nature of experimental comedy like this, some sketches hit the mark more than others. But there some strong performances from the cast. My utter favourite being Steve Cain’s aforementioned call centre worker with a heart of darkness. Addressing each customer as ‘minion’, this is one character that could leap out to his own show.
Of note elsewhere is Polly Caponecchia’s monologue about her boyfriend Andrew and Kate Mitchell’s despair at the group’s hysterical rendition of ‘Bing’ closing the first half. The group work will together under Alex Shepley’s direction. Sketches naturally flow and the informality of proceedings feels almost like a party rather than a show.
This is a great chance to see some up and coming talent and it’s one show I can see gaining legs and running fast – catch it now and you can say you were there when it all began..
The Ray Harryhausen Skeleton Orchestra continues tonight at the Town Hall Tavern. You can also read an excellent interview with Kev Sutherland of the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre courtesy of the Manchester Evening News here.