Andrew Dawson and Gavin Robertson have been trouping their hilarious parody of the classic Gerry Anderson puppet dramas around the country ever since their success at the Edinburgh Fringe in 1984.
Since then, the sets have become a little more sophisticated and the Thunderbird Hats look like they have probably benefited from 17 years of refinements, but at its heart, this show remains unchanged and undiminished – it is still two blokes taking the piss out of one of our nation’s tackiest kids TV shows. What could be better?
Now back for its sixth and, they say, final run in the West End, Thunderbirds FAB has lost none of its fun and ability to make adults and kids alike laugh like drains.
Like Marie Jones’ hit Irish two-hander Stone in His Pockets, the show relies heavily on the ability of the two performers to convincingly play a whole host of characters (and in this case, wonderfully and loudly animated inanimate objects), often with no more than a change of hat or expression to denote who they have metamorphosed into.
The plot, if you care, is a classic Thunderbird’s conundrum. The “President” (we know not of what or where) is stuck on a train careering toward a collapsed bridge, destroyed by Captain Black and the Mysterons. Only International Rescue can save the day, and Virgil, Brains, Scott and the rest are pressed into action to save the dignitary from disaster.
Dawson and Robertson are clearly huge fans of the TV shows and their characters are invested with a huge amount of affection. Robertson’s Lady Penelope and Dawson’s Brains are probably the highlights. What stops this show being a lacklustre pretension of puppetry, however, is the pair’s great technical and physical finesse. Both are excellent mimes and their ability to convey the immense scale of the story they’re telling is genuinely awe-inspiring. And very very funny – just watching them traipse the stage, all googly-eyed and limbed, is a joy.
It may be reaching voting age, but Thunderbirds FAB will appeal to the kid in anyone. And after all this time, it is still surprisingly fresh and inventive physical theatre at its best.