Maybe we should have stayed behind to hear the explanatory talk given at the end of Woyzeck on the Highveld at the Hall for Cornwall last night. It might just have helped illuminate this somewhat underwhelming visit by the internationally acclaimed Handspring Puppet Company.
It was all very worthy and well-intentioned but as a piece of theatre it failed to grip once the initial delight at watching the puppets “perform” had faded. The traditional German tale of a downtrodden soldier (Berg’s opera Wozzeck tells it so much better) has been updated to a tale of oppression and murder in modern-day South Africa but somehow the grim, gaunt drama fails to move or enthral in the hands of the puppeteers who are unfortunately far too visible to weave much magic.
There was little doubting the manipulators’ skills (especially with the accordion player and the rhinoceros) but to have them voicing in full view while pulling their strings and tugging their rods lessened any impact the piece has apparently had on audiences around the world.
And judging from the audience reaction, many others felt equally disappointed. Such a shame as HfC needs to be encouraged, not deterred, for bringing such adventurous theatre to the far southwest.