Sammy J in the Forest of Dreams is far from your usual puppet show nor your usual fairy story: in fact, it's a wickedly funny subversion of both.
Comedian Sammy J, escaping the pressures of his world, crawls through the portal he finds in his kitchen cupboard and ends up in the Forest of Dreams. Populated by a plethora of Muppet style puppets with some shadow work thrown in for good measure, this is no ordinary forest.
Finding a place that Sammy J thinks is oppressed by a cruel and dictatorial king, he persuades his woodland friends to stage a coup. Along the way there is both tenderness and sadness woven into the plot. Ultimately though the twists lead to our hero returning to his kitchen.
Sammy J has great style and presence. His natural charisma and irreverence make him a character that - despite his obvious flaws - you can’t help but like.
The puppetry of Heath McIvor provides the perfect foil for the protagonist. He is extremely skilled at breathing life into the most unlifelike puppets, and more importantly, he imbues them with soul. The natural chemistry between the two performers is never more evident than in the impromptu version of a scene between two of the puppets which culminates in them attempting the scene in each other's position making the audience cry with laughter at their exchange.
There is a level of audience participation involved in the show, with Sammy J picking on members of the public and bringing them into the action at points. This makes the whole experience more immersive, despite the rather soulless room the performance takes place in, as no-one feels safe from suddenly being picked upon.
The show is billed as being for adults, and the language is certainly risqué enough to give the show an 18 certificate. From an opening number entitled “F*** You Disney”, through graphic language of a sexual nature, this is not a show for prudes. However the language never seems gratuitous, which is testament to the creators' skills.
According to the description Sammy J wrote in my notebook half way through the performance this review should contain the word “ill-conceived”. Sorry but I have to disagree with that one. This show is very cleverly conceived to appeal to that still childish sense of humour we retain while not being in the least childlike.
Long may Sammy J and the creatures of the Forest of Dreams attempt to overthrow their king.