The Right Size, Mr Puntila and his Man Matti

Review in Issue 10-3 | Autumn 1998

The Right Size, the Almeida, Bertolt Brecht: with such a collision of talent it’s little wonder this production sparkles so brightly with vivacity and joie de vivre. And if that’s not enough, Theatre de Complicite star Kathryn Hunter directs; Tim Hatley designs; and the cast includes Mick Barnfather and Hayley Carmichael.

Brecht’s 1940 parable about a co-dependent relationship between a hell-raising landowner and his dour sidekick, is such a perfect vehicle for Sean Foley and Hamish McColl that it’s easy to forget this wasn’t written with them in mind. This is the first time The Right Size have tackled text and they do so without losing any of the physical energy and comic complexity which characterises their devised work. They also prove their considerable talents as character actors. McColl, as the schizophrenic Puntila – a bullying capitalist tyrant when sober but a soft-hearted man of the people when drunk – shifts skilfully between both facets of the character’s split personality. As the sober Puntila, he is a wild-eyed maniac. But once drunk, he falls around playfully, bellowing and farting like a bawdy fool. Foley, as the straight man, makes it clear that, in spite of his servant status, Matti is as much the manipulator within the relationship as he is manipulated. In arch asides to the audience he communicates his thinly veiled contempt of Puntila, the man he nonetheless relies on to maintain his own status at Puntila Hall.

Besides Foley and McColl, there is much else to commend in this impressive production. Hayley Carmichael does a fabulous comic turn as Puntila’s daughter Eva. With her cut-glass enunciation and prissy mannerisms, she is an unlikely product of Puntila. However, by the end she has dropped her finishing-school pretensions and gets down and dirty in the mud with the rest of the rowdy rabble. The scenes are jollied along with some infectious songs and, of course, this wouldn’t be a Tim Hatley designed show, without a spectacular coup de théâtre at the end. I’ve never seen a set change get a spontaneous round of applause before, but this one earns it. It’s a cliché, I know, but you really do miss this show at your peril.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Festival
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Aug 1998

This article in the magazine

Issue 10-3
p. 21 - 22