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shows Snuffhouse Dustlouse

Within a cronky Heath-Robinson like set a tragic comedy unfolds. Mabel, a figure half-human, half-sack trundles about in Beckettian isolation until disturbed by an intruder. Suddenly this seemingly secure but fragile world is thrown into chaos as the forgotten truth about Mabel's harrowing past is finally revealed.

The performance is an orgy of visual experience, including winged creatures whose beaked masks hide their eyeless human faces, maniacal disembodied legs, an automated thunder machine, pickled talking-heads and a glittering finale!



Snuffhouse Dustlouse is FaultyOptic's 2nd show and was first seen in the UK in 1991. Since then it has toured to France, Holland, Spain, Italy, Israel, Ireland, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Indonesia, Canada often with the help of The British Council. The show came runner up in Best International Theatre Show Awards in Quebec in 1994.

Snuffhouse was then retoured in venues around England in Autumn 1999 and January 2000 with the help of the Arts Council of England. It was nominated for the Fringe Theatre Award by The Manchester Evening News.

Devised, constructed and performed by Gavin Glover and Liz Walker

Music composed and recorded by John Winfield.

Initial directional assistance Julia Bardsley

With thanks to Yves Vasseur, Steve Tiplady, Mark Webber, Kate Thompson, Duncan Hooson, The Arts Council of England and The British Council.

- 'We are sucked into this weird world, part comic, part nightmare. We're transfixed by magic' - The Guardian.

-"Beckettian" but we are given more ease than Beckett ever gives us.' - The Irish Times.


What the Papers said about Snuffhouse Dustlouse

The Guardian

Pieces of hate

Snuffhouse Dustlouse ICA. London Thursday January 20 2000

Faulty Optic is one of British theatre's best-kept secrets, a company that more than lives up to its name with its automated sets, loopy animated figures and out-of-focus snapshots of a world that is permanently on the blink.

Dating from 1991, but until now performed mostly abroad, this piece, featuring a puppet figure called Mabel who is half human and half sack and who has sad eyes that glitter.like faraway stars, is as weird and unsettling as anything the company has produced. It appears to owe quite a lot to Philip Larkin ("They fuck you up your mum and dad" etc etc) and just as much to Dennis Nilsen. There is a terrible tenderness here in the way love kills.

Yet although the wind howls continually as if Mabel has become stranded in some emotional polar wasteland, there is a wicked and irresistible humour at work here too, both in the Heath Robinson-ish contraption that is Mabel's lifeline and in the absurdities of her existence. Insanity is never far away, and yet the great trick of the performance is that it convinces you of the logic of everything that Mabel does,however ridiculous and however appalling.

Music, a set that takes on a life of its own and Mabel's desperate, eloquent body language pile on the tension as her isolated, pitiful existence is interrupted by the arrival of an intruder who both threatens and offers a last grasp at freedom. What does it all signify? The horror of human contact and the excruciating pain of having none? The joy of finding your feet at last? I can't tell you, but I loved its sad, demented vision to bits, and bits or at least body parts - is what it's all about.

Lyn Gardner

The Independent

Who's pulling the strings?


IF ANYONE still needs persuading that puppetry can be for grown-ups, and that saying nothing can sometimes speak volumes, they should shuffle along quickly to Faulty Optic's Snuffhouse Dustlouse. It's a nightmarishly beautiful work that has all the invention of a Wallace and Gromit escapade with none of the cuteness.

The junkyard set is a Heath-Robinson marvel of wires and trapdoors, wheels, fairy lights and miniaturised home furnishings, around which a leg-less, blue-faced old man bobs, dusting where he can, constantly cocking an ear at the mechanical grumbling sounds that penetrate his tiny shack.

Into his Beckettian half-life comes a green spindly-limbed creature that causes him to re-live the moment when his mother sawed his legs off.

It gets weirder and weirder (reaching a zany zenith when two marauding pairs of poultry legs fly around his domicile) without ever losing its intimate expressiveness. Moments of tenderness amid this apocalyptic madness are surprisingly touching. "A timeless classic," brags the programme. For once, they may be right.

Dominic Cavendish


Theatre de Chatillon, Chatillon, Paris. 13 April 1999

Sur la scène, l'assemblage de poulies, interrupteurs, engrenages, trappes, placards, tiroirs emboîtés,dresse une machinerie dont on cherche le mode d'emploi. Un bric-à-brac de psychopathe cocasse, noyé dans une brume rougeoyanté de fin des temps, au cœur duquel se tient Mabel, vieillard cul de jatte à gueule de papier mâché, sous respiration artificielle à l'instant où le spectacle commence. La sonnerie d'un réveil matin le précipite dans des occupations aussi maniaques que vitales, telles que chasser la poussière ou transférer le cadavre d'un chien d'une boîte à un cercueil suspendu en l'air. Plus tard, Mabel ira au plus essentiel en réglant ses comptes avec papa-maman qui l'ont châtré...Sauve qui peut ricanant qui, au bout du compte, laisse le spectateur pantois, quand, sortant de l'ombre d'un humour noir dévastateur, les deux manipulateurs apparaissent en pleine lumière. La trentaine presque enfantine encore, Liz Walker et Gavin Glover ressemblent davantage à des chérubins farceurs qu'à des anges exterminateurs. Originaire de Londres le duo de Faulty Optic vient des marionnettes à fil pour enfants. Las de récolter des bravos convenus, ils ont dynamité le genre en explorant le théâtre d'ombre et d'objet, en s'inspirant du cinéma d'animation tchéque et en bricolant les nouvelles technologies. Snuffhouse Dustlouse, que propose le théâtre de Châtillon, est leur premier pied de nez sardonique à un guignol de pacotille. Le spectacle a imposé Faulty Optic comme I' une des jeunes compagnies de marionnettes les plus originales de sa génération. Une de leurs créations circonscrit le spectacle dans un aquarium, où évoluent des personnages dont on peut suivre la gestuelle sur écran vidéo. Dans SnuffhouseDustlouse, Liz et Gavin vitriolisent le drame de l'enfance massacrée avec des figures désossées, autrement humaines que les classiques marionnettes. Edgar Poe et Lewis Carrol ne sont pas loin, non plus que la cruauté d'un univers en decomposition à la Crumb. Le couple fait tellement corps avec ses personnages que, dit Liz, 'il nous. arrive parfois de nous sur prendre nous meme en voyan notre marionnette fairs de choses aux quelles on ne s'attend pas'. Une prise de pouvoir que célèbre Faulty Optic de Paris à Amsterdam, de Londres à Montréal, en haussant l'art de la marionnette au rang d'une réjouissante dérision.


Brief technical requirements: Minimum stage- 7.5mx4.5mx3.5m. End on, black box. Audience- 60-250. Adults and older children. Duration- 1hr15min. LX- 18-20 profiles, 20-24 circuits. SX- amp, speakers, minidisc player. No interval.