Words: Caitlin Finnerty
This epic adaptation weaves puppetry, performance, film, and poignant music to breathe life into Coetzee’s Booker Prize-winning novel. The narrative centres on Michael K, an unassuming man’s journey through war-torn South Africa to fulfil his mother’s final wish. Amid societal rejection due to his cleft lip, the tale captures his struggles and profound connection to the land. The cast of nine delivers a storytelling masterclass, each member taking turns sharing Michael’s journey directly with the audience, aided by the compelling use of soundscapes and effects created live.
The performance astounds with its movement, large props, and subtle yet effective stage tricks. The dynamic energy is further heightened by puppet handlers – three per puppet – who infuse them with life and animation, showcasing masterful craftsmanship. The emotional depth of the performances is underlined by passionate monologues and moments of light-heartedness that balance the storyline’s complexity.
While the show’s immersive qualities are undeniable, some moments might leave you momentarily puzzled. Nonetheless, the dedication to storytelling and the intricate craftsmanship of the puppets hold your attention throughout, even in the absence of breaks in its lengthy runtime. Life & Times of Michael K is a mesmerizing exploration of societal struggles, human spirit, and the power of storytelling. With over four puppets seamlessly interacting with the cast, it’s a spectacle that you won’t want to miss, offering an enchanting journey through Coetzee’s evocative world.
JM Coetzee’s Life & Times of Michael K
Assembly Hall, Main Hall
15-20, 22-27 Aug
1 hour 55 minutes