Alone on stage, Christopher Piper shows us the wonder of puppetry from the very beginning when he creates a puppet right before our eyes – a plucky finger puppet Marybelle, who takes on mannerisms, her own style and personality as he builds her, bit by bit. The introduction effectively sets up the artistry so that by the time we get to the actual show, we’re well prepped to appreciate the creative flow between the puppeteer and his creation. The Billy Goats story works so well because the little kid brother character is carefully delineated. In typical household fashion, he’s the first to wake up and then boisterously harasses his older brother with non-stop questions of “Why” that everyone has endured, or even perpetrated at some time in life.
What comes across in an endearing manner is a set of brother goats who butt heads for sport but still look out for each other like caring siblings. The relationship between the eldest and the kid is precious, and Piper’s vocal inflections set the tones beautifully as the little fellow asks in wonder about the “twoll” and wistfully expresses his hunger for grass as they huddle on the cold barren rocks. He descends, bottom first of course, and enticed by the luscious grass on the other side of the mountain, ignores his brother’s warning about NOT crossing the bridge, and encounters the dreadful green, monstrous troll – who must be seen to be believed.
After demanding who is clippety clopping across his bridge, the troll periodically explodes with rage or anxiety where limbs become disjointed and fly apart only to reassemble with the tug on a string. It’s quite effective and brings a fresh and literal interpretation to Getting oneself together.
One by one, the goats trepidatiously make their way across, each promising a potentially fatter, tastier meal for the hungry troll if he would just wait until the next brother crossed the bridge. With each delay of a potentially tasty meal, the troll gets his own come-uppence from his wife below who from the sounds of it, knocks him to kingdom come, a puzzling nod to spousal abuse even for a smelly old troll. The final stand off with the biggest Billy Goat Gruff pales in comparison.
Effective lighting and sound heighten the story with stage design by Christopher Piper and ingeniously designed set by Josephine Durkin that Piper swivels to relay the contrasting scenes.The husband and wife Piper duo, Christopher and MayField, designed the delightful marionettes.
Piper credits his puppeteer parents Len and Pat Piper with the adapted script, building upon a bonafide linage that goes back a generation contributing to his showmanship and mastery of the medium. Watching such a craftsman at work with material that he remembered as a youngster is a treasure that doesn’t come often. And shouldn’t be missed at the Puppet Company.
The Three Billy Goats Gruff runs thru Nov 18, 2011 at Puppet Co, Glen Echo Park, 7300 MacArthur Blvd, Glen Echo, MD.
The Three Billy Goats Gruff
Script Written by Len Piper, Pat Piper and Christopher Piper
Performed by Christopher Piper
Produced by The Puppet Company
Reviewed by Debbie Minter Jackson
Running time: 50 Minutes, with no intermission
- Julia Exline . MDTheatreGuide