JM Coetzee's Life & Times of Michael K
Presented By: Baxter Theatre Centre
***SCOTSMAN FRINGE FIRST Winner***
***PLAYBILL pick of the Festival***
British Theatre Guide
‘Epic…amazingly crafted puppetry…this is magic realism and magical staging.’
The Irish Times
‘Exquisite puppetry…immense artistry. A sweeping adaptation…majestic.’
‘Wonderful... innovative and it charms’.
The Reviews Hub
‘A work of art…phenomenal.’
Galway City Tribune
'The Life & Time of Michael K, directed by Lara Foot, who is brilliant, is absolutely mesmerizing. The Handspring Puppet Company's puppets, you cannot take your eyes off, and the work of the company, such as you don't often see. I found it most riveting, strange, weirdly wonderfully theatrical production. You got to see it.'
Dame Janet Suzman
Assembly Hall, Main Hall
Age Rating: Age 0 and above
Scenes of violence, Strobe lighting, Strong language/swearing
Life & Times of Michael K – The Black Box Theatre, Galway Reviewer: Tricia O’Beirne Writer: J.M. Coetzee Adapted by: Lara Foot Director: Lara Foot The generic sounds of war can be heard as figures run on stage, clearly fleeing gunfire, one of them holding a crumpled orange cloth seemingly containing a body. As she lays the cloth on the stage and the actors gather to open its folds, Michael K is first revealed to our gaze. He makes a poignant figure, thin, small and unmoving. He is then scoped up again and the set rearranges so that Michael may begin his perilous and epic journey through birth, childhood, and ultimately across a war-torn South Africa, to seek a home for his mother and himself. Handspring Puppet Company, a South African-based theatre company, and Director Lara Foot bring their adaptation of J. M. Coetzee’s 1983 Booker Prize winning novel to the stage for the Galway International Arts Festival (GIAF). The Black Box venue has a copious stage, and it is presented simply here as the play opens: the distressed facade of a house to the back, with broken walls to the sides. Michael K is a puppet, as is his mother Anna K and they command the service of three puppeteers each, in order to move, run, give birth (Anna), scratch legs and belly (also Anna) and play with even smaller puppet children (Michael). Michael is not so successful at eating and when presented with a chicken roll, he must assign the actual food processing to his three movers. The mingling of the bodies of puppet and puppeteers is wonderful, the puppeteers are playful and protective of their charges; there is no attempt to obscure the mechanics of the puppets and occasionally, as with the chicken roll, there is interaction between puppet and puppeteers. This levity is welcome, as Michael’s story is unrelentingly sad, hard, and cruel. Michael is born with a cleft palate and even his mother shuns him initially; he is called names – rabbit-face being one particular slur – and bullied as a child, while poverty and war blight his life from the start. When his mother can no longer carry out her work as a domestic servant in the seaside suburbs of Cape Town, the two decide to embark on a journey to return Anna to the place she remembers with great fondness from childhood: where she picked chicken’s eggs from under bushes and ate goat meat which tasted like butter. There is incredible attention to detail in the creation of Michael and Anna’s vehicle – at one point a tiny version of the pair and their ‘wheelbarrow cart’ is brought on stage, backdropped against projected images of endless roads and rail tracks. At other times Michael or his mother’s faces are shown in close-up projection onto the set wall; these puppets are not pretty; they are rough-hewn and tragic. Life and Times of Michael K is innovative and it charms, despite the grim subject matter. There is much to ponder once the play ends and Michael is once again carried off stage wrapped in a cloth. The company are sure-footed and there is something very touching in the way they interact with the puppets; it is that relationship rather than artifice that brings the puppets to life on stage. The play stages the impact of war, particularly on the vulnerable in society, and is analogous of any and every conflict.
Review by Leon, Mon 31 Jul 2023
Stunning show. A must see at the fringe this year from the creators of the War Horse show. Incredible puppetry, fantastic acting and a strong plot made this practically a Broadway experience. And all for £10!
Review by Dom, Mon 07 Aug 2023
An astonishing show of powerful story telling with an amazing combination of stunning puppetry (from the War Horse team) and captivating acting. If you see nothing else this festival go to see this.
Review by Gwynneth, Mon 07 Aug 2023
Stunning experience! Watch inanimate puppets come to life on stage. Subtle, extraordinary.
Review by Elise, Mon 07 Aug 2023
blew me away, such a beautiful story .. bring tissue .. it moved me to tears
Review by sook lin, Sat 12 Aug 2023
I think this was my favourite production at this years fringe. Beautifully written story where you easily forget that the puppets are not human.. Wonderful characters brought to life by the craftsmanship of the puppeteers and actors. A wonderful theatrical experience. Well done to all. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Review by Jacquie, Sun 27 Aug 2023