Puppets by Julie Hoverson

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19 Nocturne Boulevard, 4 March 2012
One of the pleasures of being a reviewer is to discover, quite by chance, that  you're reviewing the kind of material that you've already reviewed before - and favourably, as well.
This was certainly the case with Julie Hoverson's Puppets - a grisly piece set in the aftermath of the Great War, involving a group of expatriate British ex-service people who took revenge on their fellow-soldiers or officers who betrayed them, exploited them, or otherwise sold them out for self-interested purposes. Their methods were simple yet bloody: to capture the culprits and involve them in a macabre Grand Guignol melodrama, where the culprits themselves became the victims. There are some particularly grisly moments in the ensuing action, where director Hoverson's combination of music and sound-effects achieve an emotional effect far more powerful than on the cinema or television screen (for instance).
Puppets bears strong links to melodramas of similar subject-matter; not only the Grand Guignol works of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but to films such as Theatre of Blood (1973), where Vincent Price (as a failed actor) takes revenge on those critics who have destroyed his career by killing them in Shakespearean ways. One victim has his head sawn off, another chokes on a pastie made from his pet dogs, and so on.
Yet here's the interesting thing about Puppets: two of the characters are called Hand and Wilson, and are played by Richard J. Hand and Michael Wilson, two academics who wrote London's Grand Guignol and the Theatre of Horror, an invaluable guide to the genre published by the University of Exeter Press. I loved the book; and I loved the production likewise, on account of its exuberance as well as the convincing performances. There is an interesting twist at the end, that subverts all our previously-held assumptions about what happened.
All credit to everyone involved; I hope to hear more plays of similar subject-matter.