Brighton FringeComedyReviewSouth East

BRIGHTON FRINGE: The Life and Death of Puppet King Richard II – ONCA

Director: Gregory Gudgeon
Reviewer: Simon Topping

We are lead down into a dark, atmospheric, garden called the ONCA cave.  The theatre stage before us is miniature and as the sound of chiming bells disappears, a man, face painted in clay, and head adorned with a crown, launches into Shakespeare. The action taking place is between two glove puppets.

There have been more than 30 performances of Richard II since the Victorian era in Stratford-Upon-Avon alone so to make a production that is this engaging and unique is to be highly commended.

Gregory Gudgeon and Lucas Augustine take us through this gripping story of power and plotting with great passion and intensity.  Gudgeon is as good as anyone you will see perform Richard II on stage.  Highlights include a scene completely played by three spoons, a flying segment with a garden fork, bendy reading lamps used as spotlights and you have not really witnessed Shakespeare, until you see one glove puppet slap another glove puppet in the face with a glove, in challenge of their honour.

The simple device of making a mouth trumpet is often used when changing scenes, reminiscent of Monty Python’s Holy Grail. Small pieces of recorded material are also used to good effect. The staging is beautifully created and the audience is moved from theatre style seating to the round after the interval keeping us entertained.

The puppets come in all shapes and sizes from small woollen heads to beautifully crafted rod puppets, three feet high.

This is an innovative and anarchic production, fitting of the spirit of Ken Campbell, highly engrossing, totally accessible and thoroughly enjoyable.

Runs 10-27 May 2017 at ONCA  |  @brightonfringe

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