Swamp Juice Review
SWAMP JUICE REVIEW
Shadow Swamp Creatures enchant Grassington Festival go-ers …
Review by Alexandra Glacet
Imagine if you will, an eclectic mix of sights and sounds, shadows and shapes thrown together by what can only be described as a Nutty Professor-esque character, and you have a loose idea of what Swamp Juice is about.
However, to fully appreciate this wondrous spectacle you need to take into account the immense amount of effort, love and pure passion that has gone into this puppetry masterpiece. The packed out audience ooohed with delight as the vision of puppet master and host, Jeff Achtem, took them on a journey through the swamp of his mind and into the psyche of the characters he creates. The beautiful shadow puppets were brought to life in a way that I’ve never seen before. This was much more than the way you may have made rabbits with your hands as a child to entertain your siblings – much, much more.
The faces of each of the puppets had a character all of their own, with moving eyes and an ingenious use of a whole host of ‘rubbish’ to give the illusion of hair and texture. Jeff himself interacts with the crowd at all times, either through his puppets or with the sounds the nutty professor makes while changing scenes.
Children were mesmerised by the way the professor held their attention, even asking them to hold aloft various random items given to them, to provide an interactive shadow backdrop for ‘Birdy’. Although the show is perfectly geared towards children over 7, the uniqueness of Swamp Juice will take adults into a far off land; if not back to their childhood, then at least to the part of the brain where they’re left trying to work out how it is so seamlessly executed. After the majority of the show – taken place on the stage with audience participation from the front rows, Jeff comes running into the crowd handing out 3D glasses at lightening speed. Now, for many this will be the first time they’ve worn such things since infancy and I was no exception. A quick stage change, lights dimmed and the already bizarre world was transformed into a three dimensional wonderland.
The story continued as the swamp monster pursued Birdy from the mouth of a sea creature and into the air, with the audience ducking and shrieking as the puppets came to life and gave the illusion of leaping into laps. The show ended to rapturous applause and sheer amazement on the faces of the onlookers. Kids and adults alike were praising every part of the performance. I myself will remember Swamp Juice for years to come and hope that the Canadian performer brings his next creative display to Grassington when he tours.
Photos: Andrew Wuttke