It’s the stuff of nightmares; you’re throwing yourself a birthday party, the punch bowl is filled and the crudites laid out…but sadly, no-one has turned up. The inventive Bill’s 44th looks at what might happen if this scenario were to play out.
As Bill patiently waits for the doorbell to ring, his carefully laid plans seem to doomed to failure as more and more things go wrong, not helped by the copious amounts of alcohol he’s pouring into the punch bowl, of which he is the only drinker.
In this show, Bill is a puppet, operated expertly by creators of the show Andy Manjuck and Dorothy James. With not a word spoken during the entire performance it falls to some musak and the way the puppeteers create expressions from Bill’s largely featureless form to tell the story.
The audiences seems to want to compensate for the lack of dialogue, laughing loudly and expelling gasps of sympathy as each unfortunate turn in the story unfolds. But Bill’s 44th is undeniably amusing, and later in the performance, as Bill reflects on birthday’s gone by, it becomes more of a bitter sweet comedy.
It is worth noting that all of the comedy is visual and much of it is quite small and precise, here the production struggles because of its venue, which doesn’t have the best sightlines unless you’re in the first or second row, so you may feel that you’re missing out on some of the best bits.
Towards the second half, Bill’s nightmare becomes more of a dream sequence, as inanimate objects come to life, and the cleverly designed set injects some life into Bill’s soulless party.
Despite exploring underlying themes of loneliness and depression, Bill’s 44th is highly entertaining and comes with some very clever use of puppetry. It is a very enjoyable way to end a Fringe day, though it may scare you off hosting a birthday party of your own ever again!