Meet Fred

One of the most endearing characters seen on stage came to Blackpool Grand Theatre, 28 April

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Meet Fred. He’s just woken up and he’s figuring out what life is all about. He might be made from stuffing and cloth but he’s got a heart and intends on following it. Faced with the impossible task of getting his life in order in an hour and a half Fred sets about trying to answer life’s biggest question – what do we really want to achieve? With help from his friend, the director (Ben Pettitt-Wade), Fred picks out three main goals – find a job, fall in love and finally meet his maker. Sounds like a solid plan!

As the performance got under way Fred faced his first tough question – which career path he’d like to take. There was nothing else for it; it was time to take a trip to the JobCentre. On arrival Fred happened across his first real world human encounter, a rather unhelpful and uninterested JobCentre adviser (Richard Newnham). Fred said he had been considering a career as astronaut but his poetic and motivating speech fell on deaf ears. Fred found himself hurtling back to reality when told: “Dreams don’t pay the wages.” The adviser gave him a shortlist of available jobs, none of which seemed suitable or appealing, and a disheartened Fred had to reconsider his options. Faced with a career he isn’t passionate about and the crippling fear of losing his PLA (puppet living allowance) Fred put work on hold and tried his hand at finding love.

With Meet Fred, Hijinx Theatre Company has succeeded in making a blank-faced canvas puppet one of the most endearing characters I have seen on the stage. Fred wakes up in this world innocent and eager to get his life going but manages to fall at each hurdle, and. Although empathetic the audience can’t help but chuckle at the unfortunate situations Fred finds himself in. Controlled by three outstanding puppeteers who masterfully perform the Japanese puppet art of bunraku the show manages to intricately show extreme forms of emotion convincingly. The attention to detail paid to each of Fred’s movement results in a captivating and realistic portrayal of human life. The parallels drawn within the show manage to provide insight into our own lives and how many barriers are put in place of us and our goals. More often than not the audience found themselves laughing at how trivial it all seems when we sit back and look at the bigger picture.

The show not only allows the audience to look at the life of another but also raises questions about our own existences. How can we be more ambitious, more caring and compassionate towards others? It encourages us to look outside the little bubble of the life we each live in and consider those around us – people who are may not be having the easiest of times. The performance is an exciting piece of theatre that focuses on how we are able to celebrate our differences and pull together to be a stronger society.

Meet Fred tours until 21 May. Photo: Tom Beardshaw

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Meet Fred

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