Puppet shows are quite hard to pull off especially – ones that have serious messages hidden away in them. Sesame Street and The Muppets have set a high standard for generations of people, and they are, as a result, associated for children. There are exceptions of course – Avenue Q comes to mind for adult puppet shows, and the history of puppet shows themselves are full of adult themes – but for many in the 21st century, the late 20th century association remains.
Fortunately, The Three Deaths of Emily Black makes for very enjoyable viewing for adult audiences. Mixing black comedy with slapstick, bittersweet moments, and a smidgeon of pop philosophy, it makes for an enjoyable night out. Viva la puppets!
Written and performed by Amberly Cull, the performance was full of quirky characters, most of whom were awful. There is nothing quite like a black comedy set at a funeral to focus on revolting people squabbling and being petty and mean – and comedic errors feeding into each other. The villains are suitably devious and could come straight from a childish villain book – but they are played with such ham that only an adult can truly appreciate them. The other characters are a weird mixture, and all of them do something terrible over the course of the show. Furthermore, the constant breaking of the Fourth Wall makes for great comedy. Think Death at a Funeral, but with more puppets and singing. And cooler, more hilarious characters.
The music and sound effects carried the show in many ways, and even broke the fourth wall. They made the show at times funny (the villain’s themes, the Hawaiian dance music, and many of the songs were jaunty and hilarious), yet at other times made the show bittersweet and even downright melancholy. But overall the music and singing was very well done, and definitely something that carried the show – although at times the lyrics were swamped by the piano at times.
The show ultimately is made by the puppets themselves of course – and the props used. It would be a pretty poor puppet show otherwise. But the puppeteers and actors manage to use the stage craftily, making it look easy (even when they stuffed up), and the amount of detail put into the production is very visible. Clearly a huge amount of effort went into designing and making everything – and it shows (and if they were scraped together at the last moment then it is even more impressive). You could go in and just look at all the puppets and be stoked by it.
Plus they’re puppets – puppets are very cool.
Overall, The Three Deaths of Emily Black is a very enjoyable show. Definitely something you should check out if you enjoy comedy, light philosophy, dark humour, and bittersweet moments. It has everything from the cool puppets to the quirky characters and even more bent humour, whilst still having a solid message in there somewhere. Check it out!
The Three Deaths of Ebony Black is on at the Butterfly Club at 7pm from 14 – 19 May. Tickets are available via the Butterfly Club website or at the box office.