Review: Outpost brings inspired puppetry to Tobacco Factory Theatres

4-stars 13th October 2015

Image: Adam DJ Laity

Outpost is a brand new co-production from Tobacco Factory Theatres, Nordland Visual Theatre and Green Ginger, the team behind the acclaimed Rust. Having toured Europe – including the prestigious World Puppet Theatre Festival in France – earlier in the year, it has returned home for the start of an autumn UK tour.

Luis and BK are stationed at a remote border crossing between their two countries. Luis believes in order and discipline. BK believes in taking things easy. And he believes that somewhere out there, mysterious creatures roam the desert. The chance discovery of a strange other-world takes the two guards on a journey into the dark heart of politics, tyranny and murder.

That Outpost was produced in the depths of the Arctic Circle, where gloom reigns for 21 hours a day, is evident in its styling. This is a grotesque, darkly funny show which revels in deranged, isolated characters. Allusions come aplenty, with references to everything from the refugee crisis to fracking. Young Luis, guarding one side of the border, warns against being “swamped” with migrants – David Cameron, in using the term “swarm”, was not too far from this – and even goes as far as to squash a fly which dares to cross the barrier. At times the puppets even look like Farage-ish swivel-eyed loons.

Part of the treat of watching shows of this kind is the skill involved in manipulating the puppets. Performers Chris Pirie, Adam Fuller and Kim Heron produce a remarkable amount of character from their marionettes, from angst to sorrow, and even some filthy toilet humour. The staging is incredibly inventive, with a brilliant, inspired switch of scenery, and Benji Bower deserves plaudits for his restrained, beautiful soundtrack. Engaging, rude and quite mad, Outpost flies the flag for innovative theatre-making.

Outpost runs at the Brewery Theatre at Tobacco Factory Theatres until 24th October. Find out more

Conal Dougan