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Brighton Fringe 2017

The Life and Death of Puppet King Richard II

BowerBird Prague

Genre: Adaptation, Puppetry, Theatre

Venue: Onca Gallery


Low Down

Created to suit an unusual space – the crypt-like basement of Onca Gallery – BowerBirdPrague triumphs with a small scale, first class production of Shakespeare’s verse play Richard II. Gregory Gudgeon gives an outstanding performance as Richard and handles a multiplicity of puppets portraying other characters. He is brilliantly supported by Lucas Augustine and a talented team of designers and makers. The wit, energy and invention at play make this a hugely enjoyable and moving experience.


What do I love about this show?

I love how the mysterious space slowly reveals itself, opening out as the play progresses. From a cave, to the ocean, to a castle.

I love the range of objects and puppets given life as characters, from rough balls of wool and wooden spoons to sophisticated and beautifully crafted figures.

I love how those puppets grow in stature as Richard’s story intensifies and the interplay between them and the actors.

I love how the two actors performance styles complement each other vocally and physically.

I love the musicality of the language, the verse and heroic couplets that are perfectly articulated and powerfully delivered.

I love how music is used with subtlety, a twang on a guitar string here, the noise of an aircraft there.

I love that the French have become Americans, that Bolingbroke is a bit of a thug and John of Gaunt is slumped in a bowl.

I love the simplicity and economy of the staging, how everything has a purpose, from thrown down gloves to hollow crowns.

I love the use of gesture and graceful movement, as when Richard despairingly climbs the wall of Pomfret Castle.

I love that I have to pay close attention to the words; that the pace is keen and the audience has to keep up.

I love how the audience is involved in the action in a gentle way and how we become intimate with the actors in this magical space.

I love the generosity of a production that plays for an audience of twenty-six people without compromising its ambition.

I love that the text resonates with concerns of today, of monarchy, corrupt world leaders, usurpers and back-stabbers.

You may not love this show as much as I do but it would take a heart of stone not to love something in it. My hat is raised to Gregory Gudgeon (performer and director) Lucas Augustine (stage manager, performer, sound artist) Willi Kerr (designer and builder) Jitka Davidkova and Brigitte Dorner (puppet makers) and the rest of the team.