I used to be in the Pelham Puppet Club and have a vivid memory of being in a junk shop desperately trying to justify paying £70 for a tatty old Dutch girl puppet. (It’s vivid as it was only a couple of weeks ago.)
So, yes, I’m a puppet fan and no fan would be worthy of wearing their Club Badge if they failed to go and see Ronnie Burkett’s Theatre of Marionettes. Of course I wouldn’t dream of using the ‘P’ word in front of Mr Burkett, but at the end of the day they are just bits of carved wood wearing clothes hanging on the end of bits of string. And regardless of what you call them, in the hands of a genius they can easily suspend (no pun intended there) your belief and make you think that these little guys are real.
10 Days On Earth is all about Darrel, a middle-aged man with a learning disability who is unaware that his elderly mother has died in her bedroom. He continues his daily routines stopping off occasionally to talk to his mother through the bedroom door. Around all this we are taken on a journey through Darrel’s life a, life that’s been controlled and shaped by his loving mother.
We meet some great characters, Lloyd for example, a street bum with a God like appearance and foul mouth and Little Burp, a cute chick who mistakes a dog for its mother. Sounds a bit surreal? Actually it isn’t. It’s simply a remarkable piece of theatre that leaves you one moment focusing on the marionettes and the next studying Burkett’s own performance and dexterity – Ronnie is fully visible throughout the performance.
A warning though, if you’re late you won’t get in. If you leave at any time during the two hour performance you wont be allowed back in and you can’t take drinks into the auditorium. The first two I can cope with, but the Library Theatre was uncomfortable hot and other people’s discomfort started to add to mine. And if anyone was in any doubt that it was only them having a hot flush, Ronnie’s final curtain call included a wringing out of his shirt.
Speaking on BBC Radio Manchester in the week Mr Burkett suggested that the play will leave you pondering on this little thought: "If you were alone but didn't know it, can you be lonely?"
It’s currently Manchester’s theatrical must-see and one thing's for sure, being a grown up loving the puppetry, I certainly won't be lonely.
10 Days On Earth is at the Library Theatre Sat 12th May and Wed 16th to Sat 19th May.
Part of queerupnorth Festival