This production, part of the curated Big in Belgium programme, is dominated by the physical energy and storytelling skills of the three performers onstage who stand on, move around, and hide behind wooden pallets recounting the story of a small town and particularly of a mother and child, her husband and the child’s father.
The performers sometimes play the characters themselves but mainly keep their distance, preferring to be themselves as performers and portraying the characters using puppets. The puppets are simply-made and almost life-sized but highly stylized heads in brown paper, with costumes of real clothing. There is no clever trickery or pretence in the operation: they are used as an effective device for any of the performers to play that particular character in any scene. They are easily picked up and put down.
It’s the story that drags you into this world. The mother is married off to a harsh older man, the baby is raised in a poor rural village, a new farmhand is employed and quickly the growing boy attaches himself to this character who is a rough sort but tender to the child. The frank conversation the two of them have after watching a stallion trying to mount a mare is refreshingly down-to-earth. The secrets revealed towards the end of this story turn the boy’s understanding of the world on its head, and we are left wanting to know more… which is good because this is the first of three performances. A trilogy that I’m guessing tells an epic story.
This is the first time the show is being performed in English, and the performers have a large amount of text to learn and speak. They were doing their best with a language that isn’t their first and struggled sometimes with pronunciation and idiom. The power of the performances as well as the commitment and skill of the performers overcame this difficulty. These shows are well worth catching, particularly later in the run when the performers will be much more confident with the language.
Presented by Ultima Thule, Richard Jordan, Theatre Royal Plymouth as part of Big in Belgium