Review by Bonny Cummins
Petrushka is a gem and a showcase for Kinny Gardner’s classically trained talents in voice, mime and movement. He has worked with many of the greats from Martha Graham to Lindsay Kemp.
During the play you are treated to an array of his talents. Darren Cheek is a talented actor and his energetic cheeky boy performance seems effortless. His perfect comedic timing is a foil for the action and interactions and puppetry. He works hard behind the scenes. Darren could give master classes to Sooty and Matthew in audience participation He has one of those faces that made for theatre and TV He is so lovable.
Tinca Leahy has the linking role in the play, adding a lovely presence, femininity and balance to unify the trio. She emanates kindliness and is the anchor person. I was in an audience of mainly adults and a full house. The faces were a wave of smiles as they followed the action. The pace is fast and furious with the actors racing around and round in an out through the seats so that you are folded into the action .The timing is everything in the full on in the round space.
The painted sides are inspired by Marc Chagall .It becomes faster ,colder ,snowier ,more magical .The Russian Royal family are in residence .You are spun in a dazzle of fun and excitement wondering where the next puppet will appear and what might happen!
The play is a tableau, spectacle, theatre, opera, art, drama puppetry and not just for children. The ominous figure whispering and hiding outside the set in black with a microphone, just gives it a brilliant darker dimension. There is a whispered commentary that you cannot quite hear and it might be in Russian or a warning. It’s strangely minimalist whilst appearing richly embroidered. The costumes are gloriously colored and the warmth and care that all the actors demonstrate to the children is so lovely. The highlights for me were Kinnys face which is so expressive and the balletic grace in everything he does is mesmerizing. Darren’s character, acting the silly one with his cup puppet, makes this well disguised high art performance piece accessible.Tinca always smiling is everybody’s big sister or best friend. The signing enriches the whole performance as always. You can feel the actor’s enjoyment as they tell the story or recap the plot with beautiful hand signing.