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A CurtainUp London Review
by Sebastian King
From the moment we enter the auditorium, it is clear that the audience is in for something a little out of the ordinary. The stage is strewn with intriguing looking kit, and a washing line from which hangs chtemís collection of handmade shadow puppets. In amongst the clutter sits Achtem himself, sorting through the debris, and occasionally letting out a manic laugh — amplified to the audience loudly thanks to the microphone he wears throughout the show.
With his collection of shadow puppets made from household objects and bits of rubbish, Achtem takes us on journey in and around the swamp, introducing us to its various inhabitants through short shadow sketches. The main thrust of the plot tracks a slightly sinister human on his quest to hunt down and capture ĎBirdieí — a quick-witted and seemingly invincible bird. Along the way we meet a hiccupping frog, a farting mouse, and a giant swamp beast to name but a few.
The real magic of this puppet show is that itís just as entertaining to watch Achtem as it is to watch his silhouetted characters. He bounds around the auditorium juggling puppets, flicking lights on and off, and distributing props to the audience, all with mathematical precision, all the while giving the impression of impromptu chaos. We may have all tried making our own shadow puppets with our hands, but Achtem does not stop there, with various parts of his own body — including his spit-slicked hair — taking on a life of their own in his projections.
At the end of the performance, Achtem asks his audience not to tell anybody too much about the final sequence, although all the publicity for the show makes reference to the Ďjaw-dropping 3D finaleí may well give the surprise away, so I donít think itíll spoil it too much for you to say that the aforementioned finale definitely lives up to this hype.
Achtem definitely knows how to entertain an audience and Swamp Juice keeps gathering momentum over the course of its short running time. Donít be fooled by thinking that this is just one for the kids — this is magical comedy genius that really needs to be seen to be believed.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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