Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

A puppet show that’s all grown-up

Woyzeck on the Highveld

Lyric Theatre, Belfast, Tuesday-Saturday, October 18-22, 7.45pm

One of the highlights of this year’s Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s sees the Handspring Puppet Company — best known for providing the innovative puppetry for the massive West End hit War Horse — bringing German playwright Georg Buchner’s classic 1800s play Woyzeck to the stage of the Lyric.

While Buchner’s original work concerned an oppressed and humiliated soldier stationed in a provincial German town, the action here has been transported to the ‘highveld’ of South Africa in the 1950s and the life of a migrant worker.

The themes of poverty, class differences and social conditions from the original are still here, as the main protagonist struggles to make his way through a tough and inhospitable landscape, amidst the backdrop of apartheid-era South Africa. But with the action performed by puppets of two-thirds human size there will be an added sense of otherworldliness to the production and, in an interesting twist the puppeteers will be visible to the audience throughout the show.

“For me, acting is about embodying the energy of the character,” said one of the company’s puppeteers, Jason Potgieter.

“But with puppetry it’s about taking it a step further, transferring the energy of the character into the object. It’s actually quite cathartic not to be the focus of attention on stage.”

In a festival programme which is stuffed with dark drama productions, this is one show which promises to stand out from the crowd.

For tickets, visit www.belfastfestival.com

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