Meet Fred follows the story of Fred the puppet. A play in a play it focuses on what it is like for someone a little different to try and live a normal life.
A play of extremes Meet Fred was an extremely powerful and thought-provoking play. With a director who claims all the audience wants to see is Fred’s suffering to a bullied and abused stage manager, Meet Fred explores how difficult it can be for disabled and slightly different people to break through preconceptions and make people understand where they are coming from. It very cleverly highlighted that although they may have difficulties in doing some things in the traditional manner that doesn’t mean disabled people or puppets, don’t wish to partake in everyday activities and live a normal life with love, mishaps, and life lessons.
A fantastic character Fred is incredibly brought to life by three skilled puppeteers through the art form of Banraku. A cloth puppet it is incredible how easily he is transformed into a living individual and how the audience can actually read his body language. The smallest movement in his back can change him from excited to upset and there were many instances were the little touches taken to bring him to life delighted the audience. One leg scratching the other leg made Fred become bashful and it was these little things that really made Fred the centre of the show as his puppeteers faded into the background.
A very honest show there were some brutal and cruel scenes where our hearts broke for Fred but it balanced them well with more light and humorous scenes. Fred doing Michael Jackson dance moves was a particular highlight. A sad and abrupt finish left us feeling cheated of Fred’s happy ending and desperate for him to come back to the stage and charm us once again. As a side note I was absolutely thrilled to see Martin controlling Fred’s legs *expertly it must be added* at the end of the show – an in character directors note left on our seats at the beginning of the show had me rooting for him all the way through. With such a technical form of puppetry, the actors had to have a large amount of skill to manipulate Fred in such a way to have him come to life and all four exceeded expectations. I have never seen such a real puppet or been able to ignore the puppeteers as easily, except perhaps in War Horse.
A thoroughly enjoyable show with a great premise and potential to take it much further, Meet Fred is a testament to the company and one I hope they continue to develop.