Feral is a beautifully imagined production which uses puppetry, film, cartoons and projection to tell the sad story of a lovely seaside town descending into anarchy. With great skill and precision, Tortoise in a Nutshell creates a movie onstage before our eyes.

The set reminds one of a cartoonist’s studio: a big, wide sloping desk with bright working lights hanging over the top.

The narrative focuses on Joe and his sister Dawn, but the story is really about the village they live in rather than these two individuals. We see the daily life of the town: the squirrel that likes to hang out with the priest outside the local church, the ladies getting their hair done in the salon, the teenage lovers kissing at the bus stop. Joe is excited about the opening of the new ‘Supercade’, a large arcade on the seafront, but his sister Dawn is not so convinced. Dawn turns out to be right and the Supercade wreaks havoc on the town’s idyll.

The set reminds one of a cartoonist’s studio: a big, wide sloping desk with bright working lights hanging over the top. At the start, one performer draws a picture of three stick figures: himself (Joe), his sister Dawn and his mother. He starts to draw the village and as he does, the rest of the performers set up 3D cardboard models of the shops and buildings around him. Tiny stick figures are placed into the model town and the performers then manipulate them. Everything is on a delicate scale. The action is filmed by the performers and projected onto a screen above them, allowing the audience to see the miniscule detail.

However , it’s not quite clear what this production gains from being a live performance. The only way to follow the story is to watch the screen – the performers don’t add much liveliness and often block the miniature puppetry in order to film it. The skill of the performers in getting everything working at the right time and in the right order is impressive and tightly honed. However, seeing the ‘behind-the-scenes’ of the filmmaking added little to the story, and watching it meant missing the beautiful imagery projected above the performers’ heads.

The audience was certainly enthralled, as the production is unique and full of beauty. However, Feral does feel like it would have worked just as well, if not better, if it had simply been presented in a cinema.  

Reviews by Jenny Williams

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The Blurb

Fringe First Award winner, Total Theatre Award nominee and sell-out show 2013 returns for eleven shows only. Joe looks back at his childhood home and traces its journey from idyllic seaside town to community gripped by anarchy. Combining puppetry, immersive soundscapes and multimedia technology, multi award-winning company Tortoise in a Nutshell build an entire world in front of the audience's eyes. 'Sophisticated and highly entertaining. The level of detail here is extraordinary' **** (Times). 'Mesmerisingly inventive... technically, visually, aurally and politically, it's a tremendous show' **** (Scotsman). 'A genuinely exciting young company brimful of ideas' (Guardian). www.madeinscotlandshowcase.com

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