Photos - Michelle Robin Anderson
Just when you’re sitting on your couch staring despairingly through your idiot box at some reality TV rubbish and wondering if the Barenaked Ladies were right, and it has all been done before, along comes a show that defies genre and convention and leaves you sighing in relief.
They say the idea of comedy is to take that which is familiar and make it different and to take that which is different and show us how it is the same. With a seamless pastiche of multimedia, music and light, Perth-based performer (director/ animator/ puppeteer/ composer and all-round Renaissance man) Tim Watts’ The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer hits the nail right on the head.
Beginning with Alvin Sputnik singing love songs to his dying wife, it gives us the dim and monochromatic vision of the apocalyptic aftermath of global warming, where billions have been lost to the rising tides and many more continue to give their lives in search of a new world. And then it shows us that there is an eternal light contained in the human heart and even though it might sputter through death and destruction, it can always be rediscovered or relit.
It may be a brave new world, but it is a universal story, and, to create another textual layer, it is created in a way that I, for one, have never seen before. Alvin swims from human form onto (and seemingly through) film screen and then off into large and small puppetry incarnations – both expertly engineered by Watts, bringing us a piece that is both joyful and melancholy.
Watts controls the intricacies of lighting and movement, shifts character and provides live original music with both voice and ukulele in such a way as to keep the audience utterly in thrall. His charisma allows that even when the piece becomes a little surreal we are still drawn to follow where he leads. We trust him, and we are with him all the way.
The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik is a collection of moments, simple and poignant, and seemingly agenda-free, although not above the occasional gentle political jibe or self-reflexive illustration. Watts seems to have an intrinsic understanding of the simplicity and raw emotion inherent in the true clown and his work brings to mind a ripple of Julian Barratt and a shade of Michael Leunig; perhaps even an echo of Spike Milligan.
While Alvin Sputnik is clearly a very new work and Watts continues to painstakingly hone it, I do not doubt that at its core lies that rare magic seed which promises to grow into something very special.
Weeping Spoon presents
The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer
Created by Tim Watts and Arielle Gray
Venue: The Blue Room Studio, 53 James St Northbridge
Dates/Times: 12 – 30 May. 6:30pm Tuesday – Saturday
Tickets: $22 / $15 conc. Blue Room Members: $18 / $12 conc.
Bookings: 9227 7005 | www.blueroom.org.au