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The Handspring Puppet Company (of War Horse and Little Amal-fame) are at the Edinburgh Festival at the Assembly Hall from 4 to 27 August 2023!

The UK premiere of JM Coetzee’s Life & Times of Michael K, adapted for the stage by Lara Foot, in collaboration with the Tony Award-winning Handspring Puppet Company. 

The Baxter Theatre’s (Two Times Scotsman’s Fringe First winners) most ambitious and exciting production in recent years, Life & Times Michael K – a Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus (Germany) and Baxter Theatre co-production.

Nobel Prize-winning author, JM Coetzee’s Life & Times of Michael K, adapted for the stage by Lara Foot, in collaboration with the Tony Award-winning Handspring Puppet Company (of War Horse and Little Amal-fame), brings together some of South Africa’s most revered, multi-award-winning artists. 

The award-winning production Winner of the Fleur du Cap Best Production and Best Puppetry Design awards, it also received five further nominations for Best Lighting Design, Best Costume Design, Best Performance by an Ensemble, Best Sound Design, Original Music, Soundscape or Live Performance (for Original Music and Sound Design).

Epic in scale, the multi-layered theatrical staging which combines puppetry, performance, film and evocative music, gives life to Coetzee’s Booker Prize-winning novel and brings together some of South Africa’s most revered, multi-award-winning artists and creatives.

Written and directed by Foot, it is the largest and most illustrious undertaking by The Baxter over the past decade. The world premiere was livestreamed from The Baxter to Düsseldorf and in November 2021 and 2022, the company travelled to Germany to perform live for the first time, to great acclaim.

The creative team is made up of Lara Foot (adaptor, writer, director), Handspring Puppet Company (adaptors, puppet directors, design and makers), Patrick Curtis (set design) Kyle Shepherd (original music composition), Joshua Cutts (lighting), Fiona McPherson and Barrett de Kock (directors of photography and film), Yoav Dagan (videography and editing), Kirsti Cumming (projection design), Phyllis Midlane (costumes) and Simon Kohler (sound design).

The impressive South African cast includes theatre legends Sandra Prinsloo, Andrew Buckland, Faniswa Yisa, puppet master Craig Leo, Roshina Ratnam, Carlo Daniels, Markus Schabbing, Billy Langa and Nolufefe Ntshuntshe.

Life & Times of Michael K is the culmination of more than two years of planning. It marks the first time that she will be working with the Tony award-winning Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler from Handspring puppet Company.

The production was invited to debut at the Theater der Welt festival at the Düsseldorf Theatre, Germany, in June 2019, however, the festival was postponed to June 2021 because of the pandemic and travel restrictions. The world premiere was livestreamed from The Baxter to Dusseldorf and in November 2021 the company travelled to Germany to perform live for the first time, to great acclaim.

The South African and German media raved, with Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung describing it as “… a brilliant Coetzee adaptation …” and “… the lights went out and a spectacular evening of theatre began …” while report-D said, “It was beguiling. Different. Great.”, and RP Online described it as “Great theatre.”

South African arts activist and critic, Faye Kabali-Kagwa, called it “… nothing short of amazing. It’s ambitious, bold, and quite honestly is a great example of the power of theatre”, while radio personality and speaker coach at TEDxCapeTown, Andre du Toit, called it “an absolute triumph” and The Critter said, “… a sublime musical score, the overall effect is epic, making Life & Times of Michael K an accomplished, and pertinent work …”

The hauntingly beautiful story follows Michael K, a simple man who embarks on a journey through South Africa, ravaged by civil war, to return his mother to die on the farm where she was born. He finds strength in his own humanity, his profound connection to the earth and his unique path which, as it unfolds, reveals to him, his reason for living.

Life & Times of Michael K will be on at Assembly Hall, Edinburgh Assembly Fringe, from 4 to 27 August 2023, at 12pm daily.

For further press information, interview or pic requests, please contact Fahiem Stellenboom, marketing and press manager, Baxter Theatre Centre, on email fahiem.stellenboom@uct.ac.za or call +27 21 680 3971 (landline) or mobile +27 722 656 023.

 WATCH THE 1 MINUTE TRAILER HERE: https://vimeo.com/670187280?share=copy

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

WHAT THE CRITICS SAID IN GALWAY

**** “Exquisite … immense artistry … majestic” – The Guardian

**** “The structure, mobility and facial subtlety of Handspring’s amazingly crafted puppets of Michael and his mother are outstanding…  This is magic realism, and magical staging.” – The Irish Times

“**** Lara Foot …. Skilfully marries individual odyssey and tumultuous backdrop.” – The Irish Times

**** “Wonderful … innovative … poignant “ – The Reviews Hub

WHAT THE CRITICS SAID IN GERMANY

“… a brilliant Coetzee adaptation …” – Simon Strauss, Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung

“… the lights went out and a spectacular evening of theatre began …” – Simon Strauss, Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung

“Lara Foot builds impressive images together with her puppet ensemble, taking plenty of time to let the precision in the collective guidance of a half-life-size marionette take effect.” -Simon Strauss, Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung

“… a captivating counter-vision to all the violence and suffering Coetzee recounts.” – Sascha Westphal, Nacht Kritik

“Great theatre … we are witnesses to a great choreography of life and the suffering of life.” – Lothar Schröder, RP Online

“This is not a didactic play. It is poetic power, which confronts us so closely with pure struggle for survival…” – Lothar Schröder, RP Online

“It was beguiling. Different. Great.” -Birgit Kölgen, report-D

The audience is gripped … at the end there is a genuine applause for the ensemble in Cape Town …”. -Birgit Kölgen, report-D

WHAT SOME OF THE CRITICS SAID IN CAPE TOWN

“I was bowled over by the work” – Litnet

“Lara Foot’s adaptation of the novel is slick and compelling … This production is a treat for the senses.” – Faeron Wheeler, Broadway World

“Lara Foot’s adaption in collaboration with the Handspring Puppet Company was an absolute triumph.” – Andre du Toit, radio personality, speaker coach at TEDxCapeTown

“What Lara Foot and the Baxter Theatre have done is nothing short of amazing. It’s ambitious, bold, and quite honestly is a great example of the power of theatre.” – Faye Kabali-Kagwa, arts activist

“Yet the world of the play is lovingly rendered (by a stellar cast) such that the people who occupy it are specifically marked in these terms. The video projections that give the production its epic scale, as we trek with Michael across the Karoo or into the mountains, also lend it a particularity. On stage, then, the story of Michael K has a tangibility, a vividness and a “roundness ” that is absent from Coetzee’s allusive and elusive depiction.” – Chris Thurman, Business Day

“Visually it is spectacular and achieves a moving world that is both elaborate and evocative … Foot has thrown all her energy and skill into this one and there are many memorable moments to witness and remember. It is a worthy production that captures the zeitgeist” –   ” – Dianne de Beer, DeBeer Necessities

“With a sublime musical score, the overall effect is epic, making Life & Times of Michael K an accomplished, and pertinent work drawing much from the canon of South African theatre, and no doubt adding to it.” – Steve Kretzmann

“Lara Foot, working in collaboration with the Handspring Puppet Company, has transfigured JM Coetzee’s Booker award winning novel, Life & Times of Michael K, from page to stage, with her signature magical realism, which imbues this gruelling tale with a light touch which speaks of hope and resilience.”  – Robyn Cohen, The Cape Robyn

“The puppetry is masterful, and brings with it heightened symbolism in the choice of characters portrayed by puppets as opposed to those that are purely actor driven´- Barbara Loots, TheatreSceneCapeTown

PRODUCTION INFORMATION

Baxter Theatre Centre and Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus present

JM Coetzee’s

Life & Times of Michael K

Adapted for the stage by Lara Foot, in collaboration with the Handspring Puppet Company

CREATIVE TEAM

Written and directed by                                                                Lara Foot

Puppetry Direction                                                                          Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones

Puppetry Direction, Design and Creation                                Adrian Kohler,  Handspring Puppet Company

Dramaturg                                                                                          Felicitas Zürcher

Composer                                                                                           Kyle Shephard

Set Designer                                                                                       Patrick Curtis

Costume Designer                                                                           Phyllis Midlane

Lighting Designer                                                                             Joshua Cutts

Sound Designer                                                                                Simon Kohler

Sound System Designer                                                                 David Claassen

Projection Designer and Editor                                                   Yoav Dagan

Projection Designer                                                                        Kirsti Cumming

Director of Photography (film), photographer                     Fiona McPherson

Director of Photography                                                               Barrett De Kock

CAST

Actors                                                                                                   Sandra Prinsloo, Andrew Buckland, Faniswa Yisa, Carlo Daniels, Billy Langa, Nolufefe Ntshuntshe

Puppet Master                                                                                  Craig Leo

Puppeteers                                                                                        Roshina Ratnam, Markus Schabbing

Venue:                                                                                                 Assembly Hall, Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Dates:                                                                                                   4 to 27 August 2023 at 12pm

Running time:                                                                                   1 hour 55 minutes, no interval

A SHORT HISTORY OF THE BAXTER THEATRE CENTRE

The Baxter Theatre Centre is known to be one of the most vibrant and multicultural hubs in the arts and entertainment on the African continent. Over the last four decades, the theatre has continued to provide a platform for young, vibrant and talented artists that have brought new and inspiring works in drama, dance and music.

Designed by Jack Barnett, the theatre opened its doors to all on 1 August 1977. It came into being as the result of a bequest from the late Dr W. Duncan Baxter who, in his will, bequeathed an amount of money to the University of Cape Town for the purpose of establishing a theatre which would, in the words of Dr Baxter, “develop and cultivate the arts in Cape Town and the adjacent districts”.

Since its opening in 1977 the complex has continued to provide a stage for all types of professional entertainment – music, drama, ballet, opera and intimate theatre. The theatre endeavour to present and host the best of South African performing arts with the objective of reflect the cultures of all the people of South Africa on its stages, foyers and galleries. It envisages a vibrant cultural centre and strives to present, not only cutting edge and socially challenging works, but also to foster and develop an ongoing relationship with the local and university communities.

The Baxter strives to present cutting-edge and major works from South Africa and masterpieces from the international repertoire.

Even through the difficult years of racial segregation its doors remained open to everyone, and it thrived, drawing on indigenous talent and creating a uniquely South African theatre tradition. The Baxter was the first theatre to stage its’ first ever interracial kiss in one of their earliest productions, Miss Julie in 1985, starring John Kani and Sandra Prinsloo.

Located at the foot of the University of Cape Town, The Baxter is home to a world-class theatre and concert hall, a studio stage, rehearsal rooms, offices, a restaurant and bars as well as a spacious grand foyer designed in exceptional modernity.

The Baxter will celebrate its 46th anniversary on 1 August 2023, as the theatre continues to nurture and grow significant works and inspiring talent in the South African performing arts and entertainment sector and broaden access to audiences in and around Cape Town, making it a true expression of the soul of this nation.