by Louis de Bernieres adapted by Mike Maran.

Mercury Theatre Balkerne Gate CO1 1PT To 12 November 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu 2pm Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 12 Nov 2.30pm.
Captioned 8 Nov.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.

TICKETS: 01206 573948.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 5 November.

People and puppets both make points, but don’t totally add up.
While being very local – involved with people in Colchester through various channels – the Mercury, over Dee Evans’ long directorship (she leaves in January, after a triumphant 14 years), has developed an international dimension, and this co-production with Tbilisi’s Kote Marjanishvili Theatre is the latest outcome.

It picks up both the Georgian Theatre’s puppetry and Mike Maran, who has toured a smaller-scale Captain Corelli. So it’s unsurprising he’s in tune with the calm wisdom of Dr Iannis, unfazed by World War II as his daughter falls for a patriot, then a captain in the invading Italian army.

Death surrounds the play; Iannis is first seen talking to his dead wife at her graveside, and gravestones mark-out the different fates of his daughter Pelagia and Corelli’s loyal friend. Others on the Greek island of Cephalonia come in the form of puppets, which are mixed in impact. There are some fine group scenes, particularly a firing-squad where the characters slowly collapse behind their nation’s flag.

But they are small creatures for the Mercury, and sometimes they merely replicate what the live actors are doing. The main Georgian impact of Levan Tsuladze’s production comes with its one contribution to the Mercury’s acting cast, Natalie Kakhidze’s Pelagia.

Her dance on a stream-like flowing sheet is an image of joy, and the happiness of her time with Tony Casement’s innocent Corelli, proud of his comrades’ musical rather than military prowess, hardly needs the puppet versions seen motoring away to temporary freedom.

Gus Gallagher shows the freedom-fighter solidified into aggression by hardline anti-Fascist communists, when he returns and assaults Pelagia. The earlier, loving Mandras is recalled as he meets his maker, journeying towards an iconic Christ whose gilded face repeatedly approaches him.

Puppets have great theatrical power. But they need careful use. Here they sit ill-at-ease with the flexibility of human reactions, leaving several plot moments unclear, while the tables on which they’re placed enter and leave the stage obtrusively.

Still, there are fine things here, including Vakhtang Kakhidze’s score (helped out, aptly, by Verdi), humour from both humans and a puppet-goat, and a strongly emotional end.

Dr Iannis: Mike Maran.
Pelagia: Natalie Kakhidze.
Mandras: Gus Gallagher.
Antonio Corelli: Tony Casement.
Italian Quartermaster/British Spy: Roger Delves-Broughton.
Puppeteers: Megi Elkabidze, Malkhaz Gabunia, Zurab Gagloshvili, Beno Gigiashvili, Ana Iakobasshvili, Sofia Khizaneishvili, Giogi Margania, Maia Maziashvili, Nino Namitcheishvili, Maia Sulkhanishvili.

Director/Designer/Lighting: Levan Tsuladze.
Music: Vakhtang Kakhidze.
Puppets: Nino Namicheishvili.
Choreographer: Gia Marghania.
Costume: Nino Namitcheishvili.

2011-11-07 09:21:24

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