The Bureau of Dodgy Dreams review by David Casey
Seen 25th of May
Performance season runs from 11th to 25th May at Cupo, Fortitude Valley
Much like a restless night peppered with bizarre, frequent dreams, The Bureau of Dodgy Dreams had me questioning reality and desperately trying to keep it all intact in my memory when thrust back out into the real world.
I love puppets. It’s very easy to sell me on any show if there are impressive puppets at play. The puppets created by Fools Theatre Company are fantastic, perfectly capturing the uncanny representation of mankind that I love, on a scale I did not expect from the typical low-to-no budget aesthetic of Anywhere Festival. I was mesmerized from the first puppet, the size of a toy, when it was carried on stage, placed down by an actor who then steps away and leaves as the puppet comes to life. This little misdirection immediately had me buy in, as my mind took several moments to remind me that there has to be someone hidden controlling it, it hasn’t really come to life. The crew only proceed to outdo themselves with a life-size puppet with torso, arms and head popping over the wall in the very next scene. At each stage of this show, it is proven time and time again there is a wealth of experience and care behind each performance style.
The structure of the show was a series of short performances, none necessarily related by a narrative or thematic thread, but instead all drawing from the same pool of conventions, utilizing clowning, mask performance, puppetry and shadow-puppetry at different times. While each performance was well-crafted in their own right, it sometimes was difficult to acclimatize to the starkly differing tones of each piece. Due to the nature of the show, and despite my best efforts to keep track with notes during the performance, I’m uncertain of the order of performances in the night, but I’m fairly certain a lighthearted clowning scene was followed by a opera solo whilst a shadow puppet gave birth to a physical puppet, who we then watched grow up, go to war, die and return to the shadow realm of its mother. Each performance was fantastic individually, and Georgia Toner’s song is beautiful to hear in the small space, but the jarring shift made it difficult to accept the tone of each performance as they began, most notably to the detriment of the more comedic pieces, as they often ended by the time the audience were on board.
It may be that this rapid-fire collection of tonally dissonant pieces is entirely the point – it certainly would fit into the mood established by the uncanny puppets, dark lighting and some of the darker, more abstract performances (looking at you, creepy flying heads). I definitely found that in trying to describe the performance to friends, they looked at me like I was describing a dream from the night before. In any case The Bureau of Dodgy Dreams is something to be seen with a loose grip on reality, and a Cheshire grin on your face.