The Three Deaths of Ebony Black is an intimate and friendly show; the large cast of puppeteers and rod puppets all squeeze around a stage barely wider than an old school desk and a certain slick mayhem ensues.
Ebony Black (a delicately detailed elderly lady in puppet form) dies in her hospital bed, but not before we’ve seen glimpses of her wilder partying days. The three deaths in the title are those described by neuroscientist David Eagleman as ‘when the body ceases to function’, ‘when the body is consigned to the grave’ and finally ‘that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time’. This structure allows for a farcical, body-swapping funeral to be bookended by moments of poignancy.
“A lovingly homespun Avenue Q“
With just 2 puppeteers, 10 puppets, sometimes 6 in one scene, this is as much a juggling act as a puppet show. Co-ordination is key and the teamwork from the pair of performers is exceptional. To allow them to more easily navigate the multiple characters the puppeteers themselves are not excluded from the story; they are playfully addressed by the puppets rather than maintaining any illusion or convention that they are nor present in the action. The effect is a lovingly homespun Avenue Q featuring beautifully designed puppets with dark twinkling eyes and narrow weighted arms that flap comically when not controlled by the puppeteer.
This miniature black comedy puppet musical has the warm, cosy and intimate feeling of two children performing a puppet show for their parents, except that the puppeteering is skilled, the writing wry and farcical, and the characterisation thoroughly enjoyable.
A peculiarly tender production, The Three Deaths of Ebony Black is sweet and surprising.
The Three Deaths of Ebony Black will be running at Underbelly, Bristo Square – Daisy at 16:30 until 26th August.