Friday, August 19, 2016

Canon Warriors (Paradise in the Vault, Edinburgh Fringe)

When you're a fantasist, it can hurt to live in the real world; and when you're a realist, it can be really quite frustrating to have to cope with the fripperies of fantasy.

This is the set-up for the two characters at the centre of Hannah Greenstreet's charming Canon Warriors, in which we meet puppet-mad Punch, who lives pretty much inside her own head, and pragmatic Fleur, who looks after them both, practically and financially. They love one another very much, and live illegally in a council beach hut in Thanet, eking out a modest existence on what little money Fleur earns as a part-time teaching assistant.

Punch and Fleur are sweet creations, written with warmth by Greenstreet, who obviously loves these characters, and knows them well. There are some lovely quirks to their characters, and some well-observed foibles which flesh them out in a short amount of time. Punch lives her life through her imagination, and idolises two hand puppets called Sid (a cat) and Dog (a dog!). She expresses herself best through the medium of these puppets, and that is the off-kilter relationship the more sensible and serious Fleur has to deal with. They occasionally put on feminist puppet shows to try and make a bit of extra money, but while these shows are what Punch lives for, Fleur's heart just isn't fully in them.

When one of Fleur's old school friends, Aidan, appears on the scene to evict them from their hut, the dynamic alters, and Fleur begins to realise that if she is going to get anywhere in life (she dreams of being a full-time teacher proper), then she may well have to distance herself from Punch, who is holding her back.

Livi Dunlop as Punch
(with Sid and Dog)
It's a charming little tale, acted beautifully by the elfin Livi Dunlop (Punch) and the permanently frustrated Imogen Allen (Fleur), and the two of them together are a joy to watch. However, more could be done with the characters (we're left asking why Punch feels most comfortable expressing herself via the medium of puppetry), and it's a great shame that Punch and Fleur are parted, and go their separate ways, leaving the naïve Punch alone. It's a downbeat ending which refuses to cater for an audience that might be hoping for a happy reunion. No, it doesn't happen. Fleur has to decide between her fluffy but stagnant life with the almost childlike Punch, or a life that can grow and expand in the real world, where she can realise her dreams.

Does Fleur do the right thing? She certainly does what's right for her, but the audience may be questioning her sudden willingness to run off with the bumbling Aidan to forge her new life, leaving Punch behind. The ending is begging for a sequel, and I hope if that sequel comes, that Fleur and Punch are reunited for good, because the play is much better with these two characters warmly sparking off one another than it is when they're apart. When you've found something that works, stick with it.

The stats
Writer: Hannah Greenstreet
Director: Ell Potter
Cast: Livi Dunlop (Punch); Imogen Allen (Fleur); Matthew Shore (Aidan)
Performed at Paradise in the Vault, Edinburgh, August 15th to 28th, 2016. Performance reviewed: August 16th, 2016

Canon Warriors on Facebook (retrieved Aug 19 2016)

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