With playful imagery, ingenious sets, gorgeous sound design and a huge helping of humour, this puppet-pastiche of Spaghetti Westerns was an absolute joy to behold.
Upon entering the Rondo Theatre this evening, I could hear audience members already brimming with excitement. Many spoke of their love of Western films, recounting memories of childhood games and trips to the cinema. Others brought up the puppet shows they loved as kids: Punch and Judy, Thunderbirds, Sooty and Sweep.
The mainly adult audience were ready for a whimsical break from the norm, something imaginative and lively and fun. And they were certainly not disappointed.
The creativity and sense of play in Spaghetti is clear from the very start of show. Two pianos, modified with movable sections, added flaps, hollowed out innards and secret hatches, transformed before our very eyes into canyons, saloons, deserts and an entire frontier town. Toy soldiers, a pair of boots and a very lively fly-on-a-stick were just some of the objects used to create hilarious takes on an extensive array of classic Western images, including pastiches of iconic moments from the Dollars trilogy and Once Upon a Time in the West. Puppets of all shapes and sizes, handled skilfully and with a comic touch by creators Pod Farlow and Emily Lequesne, were utilized to create an experience that felt simultaneously homemade and cinematic.
And all of this was achieved without a single word of dialogue. Credit must go here to the wonderful sound design, not just the atmospheric music (a fantastic setter of mood and scene in itself), but also a lively use of sound effects, from gunshots to galloping horses, which drove the action and narrative of the story along so well that words were not needed. The fast-paced, constant nature of these sounds, cued with the movements of the performers and their puppets, must have required extensive rehearsal, making it all the more impressive that very few cues were dropped throughout the piece.
Spaghetti! may not be the kind of revolutionary production that breaks the very foundations of theatre wide open or moves its audiences to impassioned tears, but it is joyful, extremely creative and silly in the best of ways, and as a momentary escape from the stressful grind of serious adult life, it is absolutely perfect. If you wanted to let out your inner child, this is the show I would recommend.
**** – 4 Stars