A review by Pauline Flannery for EXTRA! EXTRA!




 Suspense London Puppetry Festival


Maison Foo


Memoirs of a Biscuit Tin



Jackson’s Lane Theatre


November 3, 2011


On tour until 16 Nov. 2011



‘On a lost, lost day, was a lost, lost street. Down the lost, lost street was a lost, lost house that seemed to have displaced its owner…..’ So begins the beguiling Memoirs of a Biscuit Tin. - a floor, a chimney and a wall set out in a Tim Burton world to recover the occupant of No 92, Mrs Rosie Benjamin.

Part of the Suspense Puppet Festival in London’s Jackson’s Lane Theatre, Memoirs of a Biscuit Tin is a deceptively simple tale that draws you in through its multi-layered, quirky script – ‘Sometimes you can be so cold’ says floor to chimney – into a magical, surreal world where anthropomorphism is the basic narrative currency. Lampshades and hat-stands become people; shaking biscuit tins denote the blitz and suitcases become the gaping maws of neighbours and friends.

As we re-trace the steps of Mrs Benjamin, with the aid of an old biscuit tin, from birth to death and through the twisted by-ways of dementia – also played out by the talented threesome - a stunning soundscore (Matt Marks) with integrated voice-overs adds period colour, depicts her confusion from the inside out, and locates place. The piece is subtle and direct, funny and poignant, full of plausible contradictions which blur the edge between theatre and art installation. Standing the test of Adrian Kohler’s (War Horse) maxim: ‘Puppetry is not a fad; what we are witnessing is theatre discovering its lost limb.’

A triumph of Memoirs of a Biscuit Tin, apart from its inventiveness, the skill of the production creatives and the talented threesome, is the emergence of Mrs Rosie Benjamin herself as a vibrant, fun-loving, living person. It gives a compassionate voice to dementia also, despite its sober tone. In the beginning Rosie Benjamin is the ‘mad lady, the bag lady who should have been put in a home years ago’….Yet through various milestones in her life, her first bike ride, her first sweetheart, marriage, we see Rosie in a real, living context.

We also see the slip and decline into dementia, which through the refracted lens of the quaint whimsy of floor, chimney and wall is made more poignant, as they fret, vex and pine over her disappearance. Rosie Benjamin’s demise is a sound collage of inner exhaustion; and her appearance as the smallest of small puppets, made up from the various paper lists she creates, is profound.

The three performers work hand in glove and they each have their moments: Bethany Sheldon’s milk bottle cha cha cha is a highlight, as is the earlier set piece ‘Dancing Cheek to Cheek’ with Kathryn Lowe; and the summer picnic with Jennifer Sumner. Yet there are moments when the tone and atmosphere becomes deliberately unsettling; in the wild frustrated, irrational outbursts.

The multiple role of Rosie Benjamin at the end is touchingly realised; and the use of balloons and suitcases to create the strand, and a lasting silken memory, a poignant reminder of the excitement of when she took her first steps. Collectively the winsome three present a shabby home-front, genteel, well in keeping with the production’s quirky style, with its striking, distempered, ghostly set; and they flit between their theatrical personas as Floor, Chimney and Wall and the different stages of Rosie Benjamin’s life, with ease and a refreshing honesty.

Share your tins……



Thursday 3rd
London Jacksons Lane – Suspense Puppetry Festival, 269A Archway Road, London, N6 5AA
Box Office: 020 8341 4421 www.suspensefestival.com <http://www.suspensefestival.com <ht> > www.jacksonslane.org.uk
Friday 4th
Leicester Embrace Arts, Richard Attenborough Centre, PO Box 138, Lancaster Road, LE1 7HA
Box Office: 0116 2522455 www.embracearts.co.uk <http://www.embracearts.co.uk
Tuesday 8th Wednesday 9th Thursday 10th
Southampton Nuffield Theatre, University Road, Southampton, SO17 1TR
Box Office: 023 8067 1771 www.nuffieldtheatre.co.uk <http://www.nuffieldtheatre.co.uk Friday
Cambridge The Junction, Clifton Way, Cambridge, CB1 7GX
Box Office: 01223 511 511 www.junction.co.uk <http://www.junction.co.uk

Wednesday 16th
Birmingham MAC Cannon Hill Park Birmingham B12 9QH
Box Office: 0121 446 3232

More dates to follow in 2012

Copyright © EXTRA! EXTRA All rights reserved