Erin Harrington reviews The Lost Sock, at Good Times Comedy Club, 20 April 2021.
Tusk Puppets’ production The Lost Sock is an endearing school holiday show for young people that foregrounds friendship, teamwork and bravery. Their first show as a company is a witty quest-slash-redemption story driven by strong, catchy songs and effective dual address. Puppet operators and creators Rebekah Head and Edwin Beats, with musical director and narrator Andy Manning, offer a piece that feels a little like Tenacious D-lite for kids, or The Ballad of Buster Socks. The show is marked by rhyming couplets and guitar riffs; the domestic and crafty sit happily alongside the epic and ridiculous.
Manning, disheveled in his pjs (‘it’s Santa!’ whispers one kid) and missing one of his socks, offers a helpful frame. Guitar in hand, he offers to tell us – and sing us – a story about the mystery of the laundry. To wit: lively Wizz (Head) and cautious Jo (Beats) live a great life in the drawers of a large dresser, which acts as an ingeniously efficient puppet stage. They are a pair of fuzzy blue socks who complement one another perfectly, although Jo’s reluctance to face the terrors of the washing machine after a muddy game of rugby has an unintended outcome. Wizz goes to the laundry alone – scandalous! – and never comes back. It’s up to Jo to dig deep and find a way to find a way to find their friend, because what’s a sock without their pair?
As befits a good quest, Jo encounters help and hindrance, including a trio of shirts who offer a great song and dance number, and finally the washing machine and dryer themselves. My favourite supporting cast members are a pair of jock-ish dirty undies – boorish rugby-playing Y-fronts Calvin and Elle who act as low-key antagonists and comic relief. We also learn where all those lost bits of clothes actually end up, in a denouement that takes an unexpected skip up the absurdity curve. Jo builds up their confidence in the best way, by modelling bravery to someone else, which gives the show a nice moral backbone without falling into the trap of being cutesy or didactic.
The show offers ambition on a small, lo-fi scale. The fuzzy puppets are charming and well-designed, and the varied original songs are musically and lyrically entertaining. There’s clear characterisation and great singing, and as well as well-pitched physical comedy and gags. The swift changes between the fifteen-strong cast of rod and glove puppets is both admirable and comical, although there’s a little scope still to smooth out some of the transitions, and to better signal to the young audience when their participation or response might be warranted. Some of the lighting changes can’t be seen well, given the bleed of daylight from the venue’s doors, but it doesn’t really matter.
A comedy club isn’t a likely space for a show for young audiences, but I’m into it: it’s set up well, casual in its seating, and director Emma Cusdin gives a lovely speech welcoming the kids to the space. The young audience appear to be engaged throughout, although I wonder if it’s still a tiny smidge too long or padded in a couple of parts, such as the tale of woe from a pair of washed-up slippers whose dancing days are long gone. I find it extremely funny, in part because of the lyrics and characterisation, but I’m an adult with a well-developed attention span.
I thoroughly enjoy The Lost Sock – which also has an adults’ only ‘directors’ cut’ show this Friday – and judging by the response from the kids during and afterwards, the target market was pretty happy too. I also appreciate seeing something original for young audiences that isn’t an adaptation of pre-existing material. Beats and Head formed Tusk Puppets last March, which strikes me as one of the best ‘what did you make during lockdown?’ stories, and they have since found a market for custom creations and puppet cameos. I hope that this first production won’t be the last.
The Lost Sock runs at Good Times Comedy Club, 224 St Asaph St, until 24 April 2021. This review was solicited.