Belly Button at Underbelly Cowgate may not be one of the most salubrious venues at the Fringe – the building is so old that there is damp running down the walls and, not to put too fine a point on it, it smells a bit. But of course, that makes it a much more characterful venue than some of the soul-less lecture rooms and hotel spaces in use at other venues.
Many of the crowd queueing for Bruce were returners, having first met this character in 2015, and for them and for first-timers, this was an exhilarating experience – puppetry and mime of a high order, apparently low-tech but with real invention and verve.
Bruce is nothing more than a block of foam with eyes and a rudimentary mouth; his hands are portrayed by the second performer wearing white gloves and that’s it – the rest of him, and all the other characters, are suggested by the voice, movement and manipulation of the two actors. And we believe in it totally.
Bruce is performed by two members of The Last Great Hunt, a theatre company from Perth, Australia. Tim Watts and Wyatt Nixon-Lloyd greet their audience in yellow robes, but this informal beginning, even allowing us to see Bruce being put on to someone’s hand, is totally forgotten with a lighting change and we have instant belief in this character.
It’s difficult to say more about this show, other than to urge you to get there if you can, especially if you appreciate mime, puppet and voice work not often equalled on the Fringe or elsewhere.