Strassman

Note: This review is from 2005

Review by Steve Bennett

Ventriloquist David Strassman brings some slick Vegas glamour and showmanship to shabby old Edinburgh.

Standing in front of a full cartoonish set depicting his  puppet workshop, he brings out the most impressive cast of  dummies you might  ever hope to see. They are the full Jim Henson workshop deal, rich in exquisite detail with fully animated features.

Yet for all the lavish accoutrements, the show is let down by a flat script. Perhaps just a small proportion of the thousands of dollars spent on high-tech gadgetry might have gone towards a writer.

After all, you can always see such impressive animatronics at Disneyland – only there you get to ride Space Mountain, too.

The lacklustre script is especially disappointing because Strassman is obviously an incredibly talented act. He’s created a range of great characters, from the foul-mouthed Chuck to the  dim-but-adorable Ted E Bear and has the vocal dexterity to have four voices chatting away to each other.

What’s more, he’s so sharp with his banter – which, as is compulsory in these ironic times, makes much reference to the ridiculousness of the ventriloquist’s art – he can even get cynical grown-ups to join in with all his silly dolly games.

Yet when, for instance, an alien is introduced that must have cost the budget of several stand-up shows rolled into one, all he can do is do is obvious gags about Uranus. Not everything’s quite so predictable, and there are a few sharp exchanges between the vent and his alter egos, but it does indicate a dullness in comic thinking. Many lines fell flat, after which he implored the audience to react, but they were just being discerning.

Other characters include the first beaver stand-up comedian – well, since Tarby at least – who engages in vaudevillian banter with Strassman; and a new one, a robotic woman, who simply doesn’t get laughs at all, as chips and diodes just don’t have the intrinsic appeal of his cuddlier creations.

There’s a lot of coming and going with these guys, and the applause to get them on and  off becomes tiring, especially when they – or rather Strassman – has done little to deserve  them.

Something of a story loosely links the individual pieces: Chuck wants to leave Strassman for another ventriloquist and, out of frustration ends up taunting him about the schizophrenia that requires him to talk to him.

One final thing elevates the evening, even if it’s too late: The animatronic operatic dinosaurs that Strassman uncovers at the encore. Pure theme park again, but actually quite sweet and wonderful.

Review date: 1 Jan 2005
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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