Creative and Moving: ‘Inflammatory Earthling Rants with Help from Kropotkin’

Poster for Bread and Puppet Theater's 'Inflammatory Earthling Rants with Help from Kropotkin'. Poster notes the title, location, and date/time of the show. The upper half of the poster looks as if it was drawn by crayon and depicts two monsters.

What happens when you put aflamed earthlings onstage? Well, they obviously need to perform inflammatory rants. Inflammatory Earthling Rants with Help from Kropotkin is a moving performance by Vermont-based Bread and Puppet Theater. The show is a commentary on the political landscape of today. It touches on broader topics of genocide, government, and the importance of speaking up on major issues while specifically delving into current events such as the war in Gaza. 

When walking into the beautiful auditorium at the Spire, wonderfully crafted homemade banners surround the seats that meet the audience. The band which consists of a handful of performers plays off to the side. I need to give them massive credit because they had to play an extra 15 minutes as the technicians were figuring out lighting issues before the show could properly commence. Along with their professionalism, the band is incredibly talented and very enjoyable to watch and listen to.

The show consists of puppets, musical performances, and as you might have expected… Rants. It is a fairly disjointed performance moving from topic to topic, even having a portion where they described Kropotkin’s life with a small puppet of him in a fairly humourous way. For those who do not know, Peter Kropotkin was a Russian geographer and a prominent figure supporting anarchist communism who also preached the ideology of mutual aid. The aforementioned disjointedness of the show culminated in me being confused as to the point of the performance for the first portion of it. It wasn’t until around 20 minutes in that I began to understand the themes and the viewpoint of the performers as the topics of the rants became much more specific. I wish I had a chance to watch it again as they touch on many important issues and a few of them went over my head. 

The performance ends in a very moving way which truly drives home the importance of speaking up on major issues and the theme of togetherness and mutual aid which Kropotkin famously preached. They also offered bread with aioli spread at the end of the performance which was a nice touch.

The puppets and sets are beautifully crafted. The work and time that had been put into each puppet and set piece to create different environments is obvious. My favourite would have to be the big rock-like sets with faces moulded into them. They are stunning and masterfully built. I also enjoyed the little Kropotkin puppet. Making Kropotkin small in comparison to the other puppets being used is an interesting choice as it enhances the humour in the scene. I was also extremely impressed by the amount of detail they were able to incorporate into such a small puppet.

The musical sections throughout the performance are very well executed and at some points, even sound angelic. Every performer has a fantastic voice and the musicians play their instruments gorgeously. Whenever an instrument is played it is at the highest quality and when performers sang in unison it gave me goosebumps. 

The audience consisted of people of all ages, from children to grandparents. With that being said, I would say that this type of show is certainly catered more toward adults than children. The topics covered would go over most children’s heads and the puppets, although very well made, could be considered scary or unsettling for some children.

Inflammatory Earthling Rants with Help from Kropotkin is a touching performance masterfully crafted and performed by Bread and Puppet Theater. It consists of exquisitely made sets and puppets accompanied by an incredibly talented cast. If you enjoy commentary-type performances that will leave you moved then this is the show for you. 

‘Inflammatory Earthling Rants with Help from Kropotkin’ played in Kingston on November 9th. More information about Bread and Puppet Theater’s upcoming projects can be found here

This article was edited on December 1st, 2023 to update formatting.