Upbeat in the midst of despair: “The Joshua Show”

Presented by Puppet Showplace Theatre
Written and Starring Joshua Holden

February 28-March 1, 2014
Brookline, MA
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Review by Noelani Kamelamela

(Brookline) Puppet Showplace Theatre mostly runs shows geared towards young children, with lessons and surprises aplenty for the tiny set.  Puppets@Nite brought a special two night only show to the space with the sprightly, multi-talented and effervescent Joshua Holden. 

The 45 minute piece employed puppetry, song, dance, conventional storytelling and a healthy dose of imagination. I enjoyed the inventive use of set, with everything on stage used to maximum effect.  To its credit, The Joshua Show would not have felt out of place if it were a conventional children’s TV program with peppy music and friendly, hokey banter aplenty.  Different bits were clearly homages to children’s programming, with the intention of making learning a new thing fun.

The true reason why the show fit best in the night slot was because a character, Mr Nicholas, had an existential crisis.  Existential crises are tricky to present to children.  Much of the laughs which that storyline got were purely from the young at heart and not the young.  Often puppet shows employ flat character puppets whose moods are simply extensions of who they are or have feelings linked to specific events in a story.  As embodied with Joshua Holden’s excellent manipulation, Mr. Nicholas came alive, not only with joy by the end of the show, but also in the midst of great despair tied to something he can’t change.

I don’t mean to suggest that a single plotline reduces the whole to Sigmund Freud and Friends.  The word “depression” never makes an appearance.   Even the angst-ridden parts are benign and well-meaning.  It would be nice to see other ‘episodes’ of The Joshua Show especially since the characters within its created world seem firmly established while still being novel.

On March 22, Puppets@Nite will put down the Puppet Showplace Slam: International Edition, a cabaret-esque night of performances that will highlight different puppets from around the world.

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