Monday, 17 August 2015
THEATRE | BEARS IN SPACE STARRING JACK GLEESON
When I first heard that Jack Gleeson (Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones) would be bringing a puppet show (yes you read that right) to London, I was perplexed to say the least. It didn't seem too long ago that Jack announced that he was going to stop acting after his villainous character's demise on the TV show, in favour of a university education. Suddenly the West End's Soho theatre was advertising a puppet show called Bears in Space, the only description accompanying it being 'Bears. That are in space.' Well then...
I didn't know what to expect but I've always loved the intimate venue of the Soho Theatre, small plays bring me just as much or sometimes even more enjoyment than huge productions and the bar/cafe area is a nice place for food and drinks, also to while away hours chatting, studying or working. The atmosphere is very relaxed and there's no allocated seating so you can simply just turn up and buy a ticket on the spot if the show's not sold out.
Bears in Space opens with four lads on stage, the narrator and his three sons so to speak. There's a story they want to tell you about a koala and a polar bear thawing from cryopreservation on a space ship (it gets even more ridiculous but amazingly so). Officers Volyova and Bhourgash (the koala and the polar bear respectively) have to make a decision to land in a nearby city to gather more energy for their airship as their talking computer points out that their supplies are running low. If they run out of energy, their beloved Captain Lazara, who is still frozen in a cryo chamber to prevent the spread of disease, will start to warm up. Unbeknownst to the bears, the town of Metrotopia that lies beneath them is ruled by a villainous yet cowardly leader by the name of Premier Niko (played to perfection by Jack Gleeson, with quite Joffrey-like mannerisms). The bears have to face many hardships and tests before the end, where unfolds a heartwarming yet quirky tale of loyalty and friendship.
The puppets are old and fraying, no machinery of any sort to facilitate movement except the use of the actors' hands and arms. However the three actors (the sons) breathe life into them, as soon as they move and speak they become one with their counterparts, and all you see is that particular character. Yes, for previously inanimate objects, the puppets transform and become so full of character, it's rather enchanting to behold. The main puppeteer Aaron Heffernan is especially outstanding, he switches between Volyova and several other different puppets seamlessly. From projecting different voices to translating mannerisms through the puppets, he is extremely entertaining to watch. You may get a further idea into the absurdity of this play from the wide spectrum of characters Jack Gleeson portrays. From an endearing, socially awkward computer, to a lonely yet rather sassy goblin, to the sadistic yet wimpy ruler of Metrotopia, this play is reason enough to hope that this young man continues acting, it would be a shame otherwise, he is talented beyond description. In fact there is no weak link between the four guys, even the narrator shines, popping in between acts to set the scene in a Wes Anderson sort of fashion, dressed in shorts with a guitar in hand.
The show is packed full of comedy and I have to say the humour is right up my alley, completely random and utterly ridiculous at times but I found I could barely stop laughing throughout the entire performance. Behind all the hilarity and sci-fi, at the centre of it all lies a heartwarming story with wonderful morals. By the end, 80 minutes felt entirely too short. Bears in Space was so much more than I had expected, I've not seen another puppet show to be able to compare it too but it is definitely one of the best theatre experiences I've ever had. It's wacky and different, very creatively and cleverly executed, and entertaining as hell. If there is one play you go to see this year, I would highly recommend this one, it's absolutely unforgettable.
PS. Huge thanks to Jack for signing my GoT DVD and agreeing to pose for this photo haha.