BLOG Alice VernonNWR Issue 110
Minging Detectives, Aberystwyth Arts Centre
On Friday 11 December, I went to review for the magazine my final show of the year. Since I started blogging for New Welsh Review last February, I’ve had the opportunity to see lots of fantastic performances from small productions to fancy displays of prop wizardry. For some reason, I decided to end my year by going to see the new show by The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre. No, I’m not entirely sure why, either.
I had a stern word with myself as I settled down in Aberystwyth Arts Centre’s Performance Studio. Despite all the deadlines and other things I needed to do, I would allow myself an hour to watch, well, sock puppets. For the first part of the show, this mindset worked and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Starring at the Edinburgh Fringe, the Socks brought a little bit of silly (adult) humour to Aberystwyth, with fantastic use of wordplay, hilariously tacky props, and a razor-sharp wit from creator Kev F Sutherland. It employed a large amount of impromptu comedy, and when things seemed to go wrong, Sutherland made it into some of the funniest moments of the evening. He also found himself funny; hearing his sudden fit of the giggles behind the puppet theatre set caused contagious laughter in the audience. In fact, my favourite lines were when the Socks broke the fourth wall, commenting on why only one of them seemed to be laughing, or when the suffering technician Pete played the wrong music track.
An hour into the show, there was an interval. I wasn’t expecting it to be long enough that an interval was needed. Sitting in the break and listening to the Socks sing a looped mash-up of cop-related (see title) songs with inserted toilet humour, I had a slight existential crisis. What was I doing watching sock puppets? If this was only the interval, how much longer was it going to last? Would I ever leave the Performance Studio, or was purgatory the act of watching two grey socks with distractingly wobbly eyes tell an extended joke about the male anatomy forever and ever? Unfortunately, when the show began again, my determination to let myself be amused seemed to have deserted me. I still found cause to laugh, but not as frequently as in the first half. I began to notice that some jokes were going on longer than they perhaps needed, and we still hadn’t really seen anything to do with crime dramas. When the topic was eventually brought to the subject we were all expecting, the jokes were mostly about pre-1990s cop shows. What on earth is ‘Z Cars’? I was far too young to get what the Socks were trying to send up, but even had I understood the reference, I had been watching the show for almost two hours and was starting to panic that I’d never see the outside world again. By that point a large part of me just wanted it to end, and when it did arrive it was by an expletive-ridden rendition of a renowned ‘Mary Poppins’ song.
Whilst I think my opinion of ‘Minging Detectives’ was slightly dampened by end-of-term tiredness, I should re-emphasise that the first half was very much enjoyable. I was in awe of Sutherland’s rapid responses to unplanned problems and impromptu jokes. I think, at least for me, the issue was that it simply went on for too long. I’m sure I’d have laughed much more at the second half if it had been a separate show, but I can only watch sock puppets for so long before I want to volunteer for the first Mars mission. I can certainly see why the comedy act has won numerous awards, and I very much appreciated the show’s construction, but I just wish it had been a shorter performance.
is PhD candidate at Aberystwyth University and is a resident blogger at New Welsh Review.
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