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shows SOILED 2003


A Love Affair

- Soiled -

Through the machinations of a boxing ballerina, a soil spitting psychic and a sparrow with Teurrets disease, a Beckettian innocent discovers a deadly secret of love, guilt, loyalty and deception.

Using animated figures, pre-recorded and live feed video, complex micro ninstallations and specially composed sound and music, FaultyOptic takes you on a journey that is charming and hazardous, emotional and cruel and spiked with wicked humour.

Toured the UK, France and Spain throughout 2003 and into 2004.




Devised, made and performed by Gavin Glover and Liz Walker

Technical manager Mark Webber

Music composed and recorded by Hugh Nankivell

Soundscapes composed and recorded by Mark Webber

Devised with help from Wils Wilson, Tom Morris, Jon Dixon, Su Huggins and Samia Doukali

Set Designed and constructed by Gavin Glover with help from Matt Hooban and Martin Smith

Funded by Arts Council England, Yorkshire Arts and The British Council.

After an enthusiastic and even rapturous reception on its 2003 opening tour of England, France, Belgium and Ireland including sold out performances at the Brighton Festival, Bath Puppet Festival, VIA Festival, France and Leeds MET University,

SOILED toured the UK, France and Spain from Autumn 2003 until Spring 2004.

What the Papers said about SOILED



Fri Aug 15 2003 Kilkenny Arts Festival.

Soiled Faulty Optic

If you can imagine Wallace & Gromit written by Samuel Beckett, you might get some idea of Soiled, an extraordinary puppet show at the Watergate Theatre by the English company Faulty Optic.

Or you might think of one of those lonely kids who plays elaborate games with superhero figures, train sets and plastic soldiers, except that the kid never grows up, is vaguely disturbed and has infinite skill, lots of resources and a wild imagination.

Such exercises in evocation are necessary because Soiled is extraordinarily difficult to describe to anyone who hasn't seen it. It seems to have a narrative but not a coherent plot. It draws on an extraordinarily wide range of traditions and ideas, among them the Japanese kabuki and bunraku styles, Grand Guignol, the symbolist dramas of Maurice Maeterlinck, silent movies, surrealist spectacle and performance art.

It has one foot in English whimsy and the other in modernist experimentalism. Its head is in the theatre of the absurd and its heart is at the end of the pier. Like a seaside Punch and Judy show, it has elements of knockabout farce.

Like Tadeusz Kantor's creations of the 1970s, it brings together puppetry, visual art and machines that move like automata. Sometimes it makes you think of the Muppets, sometimes of Dante's Inferno or Blake's To Nobodaddy.

I can't pretend to know what it's all about, except that the continual images are of soil, excavation, burial, death and the underworld.

The set has three main areas, which seem to belong to three "characters": a man-like creature who emerges from a box in the centre, a sinister looking but jokey and apparently benign humanoid who inhabits a small tower to the left and a sweet-looking but sinister and apparently malign tweetie bird who lives in a dangling nest to the right. The central figure experiences, partly in a filmed sequence, love, loss and death. He goes to hell and back.

The performers and devisers of the piece, Liz Walker and Gavin Glover, manipulate the glove puppets dressed in kabuki-style black costumes, making them ghostly but insistent presences and giving the show, for all its interplay of objects and machines, a strong human element.

It feels not like the shadow world of traditional puppetry but like a projection of human fears and desires, as though it is a pleasant game haunted and threatened by monsters.

This nightmarish quality is the show's great strength, and the most compelling sequence is a vision of hell. In a culminating gesture, Walker and Glover manipulate a camera around a machine that is arrayed with tiny images of a strange landscape that might be a mine or a moon.

The satanic figures and trapped souls are projected onto a screen, creating a creepy but vividly compelling evocation of a bad dream. Few people in the audience are likely to have seen anything quite like it, and that's not something you can say about many shows.

Finton O'Toole




Summer 2003 Faulty Optic 'Soiled' Komedia

It was a delight to see Faulty Optic back at the Komedia with 'Soiled', a beautifully crafted piece incorporating puppetry, automata, pre-recorded film and live video - and an excellent composed soundscape. As with previous shows, this was a visually stunning, wordless dreamscape. It seemed to revolve around themes of escaping the boundaries of clay-footed, earth-bound existence, defying gravity and flying high - literally or metaphorically. The skilfully crafted and manipulated characters included the usual Faulty pairing of 'two old codgers' together with an on-screen Little Mermaid (escaped from her Copenhagen plinth), a couple of truly batty~birds and a strange xylophone- playing toy.

I noticed in the programme notes that the company have been inspired by Czech animator Jan Svankmejer. Although I had not previously made the connection, it now seems obvious- both are dark, surreal, funny, unsettling, yet somehow always life-enhancing with a carnivalesque pleasure in turning the world upside down and examining the real physical matter of existence.

It is the company's use of Ôlive feed video projection' that is one of the most innovative aspects of their work: in 'Soiled' this is used to superb effect - to the side of the stage, a ship sounds its foghorn, lights flashing in the dark. Puppeteers manipulate a whole miniature world within the ship, cameras at the end of rods relaying the scene onto a screen on the other side of the stage. In this merging of live puppetry and film animation, Faulty have discovered a genre they have made their own: they are indeed masters of their universe.

Dorothy Max Prior


Brief technical requirements: Minimum stage- 8mx6mx3.5m. End on, black box. Audience- 60-250.Adults and older children. Duration- 1hr15min approx. LX- 18-20 profiles, 20-24 circuits. SX- amp, speakers, minidisc player. No interval.