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Slick, Traverse, Edinburgh

There are new recruits in the cast, and some of the satirical side swipes have been slyly updated, but by and large this Vox Motus production retains all the grubby panache and sleazy brilliance of the original Fringe 2008 hit.

If anything, the moral quagmire that threatens to engulf wee Malcolm Biggar (aged nine and three quarters) is even closer to home – and today's hectic headlines – than it was five years ago.

So while we guffaw at the savage humour that delivers our gormless, hapless hero into the clutches of predatory, pervy immigrants – landlord Jerko Dreich and his mad, conniving old mother – or chortle at the venomous outpourings of Malcolm's hostile, neglectful parents, on reflection it's hard to shrug off the twisted scenarios devised by Jamie Harrison and Candice Edmunds as bizarrely far-fetched, or fantastical. The only improbable twist here is the crude oil gushing out of the Biggars' cludgie.

Serving up such a gleefully scatological black comedy is not an easy proposition, but the Vox Motus style of puppet-play – where live performers inhabit pint-sized, over-stuffed squashy torsos – allows individual characters the physical oddities of a comic-strip alongside the persuasive spontaneity of facial expressions, hand gestures and well-timed lines. If James Young is just the dab as Malcolm – an innocent about to be tarnished by a greedy, amoral adult world – the supporting four-strong cast are also outstanding, whether acting in character or seamlessly arranging the pop-up cut-out sets that lurk inside the on-stage boxes. If you missed this gem in 2008, never fear – as Slick rounds off a tremendous Manipulate season, it begins a busy Scottish tour.

HHHH

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