In the cellar of Brighton's ONCA gallery, a one man Shakespeare play is where we lay our scene. If that responsibility wasn't enough to make grown actors shiver, this is Shakespeare - with puppets.
A tale of power and plotting, Richard II acts as the first of Shakespeare's plays about the House of Lancaster. Speculation is rife as Henry Bolingbroke (Henry IV) accuses Thomas Mowbray (Duke of Norfolk) of withholding crown funds and of plotting the death of his uncle, the Duke of Gloucester. The pursuit of power ensues, bringing a web of enemies and the downfall of kings in all their puppet glory.
Jitka Davidkova and Brigitte Dorner from the heart of the Czech Republic, have designed the puppets in question. Their hauntingly carved faces are captivating, and offer real depth to the otherwise static performance. Sparked to life by Gregory Gudgeon with relentless energy, Gudgeon darts impressively from accent to accent, possessing each puppet beautifully with gravelly Yorkshire grunts to harsh Southern screeches.
Of course this wouldn't be Shakespeare without the slips and tumbles of the Jacobean tongue, expertly diverted by Grudgeon's bumbling rapport with the audience. Despite it's first night fumbles, the potential for a truly stirring Shakespeare is there. With a quaint set, captivating puppets and dynamic vocal range, all of the unique ingredients can combine to create a charming yet haunting tale of greed, power and ultimate woe.