A collaboration between South African puppeteers Handspring and innovative British theatre director Neil Bartlett seemed irresistible, and what they’ve produced is a pretty unique show with five puppets and eight performers on a bare stage in the round. An old gay man close to death looks back on the early stages of his 67-year partnership in flashbacks. Narration is provided by the excellent Adjoa Andoh as nurse, housekeeper, solicitor and some sort of psychiatrist / psychologist giving a lecture. Puppets Mr A and Mr B have young and old versions ’manipulated’ by the same performers, Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler, with four bare-footed puppeteer / actor ‘assistants’ dressed in black suits. This all takes place on a bare stage with props stored underneath, handed up and down to and from actors by two visible stage managers. There are six entrances, four steps and two walkways, one through a giant rusting wall and one through double-doors. There is some extraordinarily effective staging – swimming, a party, a squash game and a car journey – during the uninterrupted 100 minutes, but I found myself admiring the stagecraft and the creativity more than I engaged with the storytelling. It’s original and intriguing, but didn’t have as much emotional depth as I was expecting; it was as if I was a student of theatre studying it from a technical perspective. That said, I don’t regret going and its a worthy experiment – much more so that Katie Mitchell’s pointless deconstructions. Go to admire rather than enjoy. - Gareth James
20 Oct 10
Dull, dull, dull. Self-indulgent, pretentious, completely lacking in drama, poorly staged... I could go on and on. One of the worst things I have ever seen at the National. - K Gerrard
14 Oct 10
As a gay man, I had high expectations for this play. While I found it to be technically brilliant (from a puppetry standpoint), it was surprisingly not emotionally compelling. The ending was somewhat touching but, up to that point, it was merely interesting to watch the puppetry. However, upon reading the programme afterwards, I found myself appreciating the story much more and gaining some emotional insight into the story. That is the problem, I think, with the play itself. It obviously didn't do its job, if it required reading the programme to get the emotional impact from the back story. The other part that I found offputting was the amount of time given to the woman's part(s). It seemed to detract from the central story that she was the one almost always talking, and talking, and talking. - Scott Mickelson USA
11 Oct 10
I have rarely been so bored in the theatre and never at The National. Everything The National puts on has a redeeming feature; at least, so I thought before I saw this.
Self-indulgent doesn't begin to describe the play. The writing reminded me of eight-year olds putting on a play in the front room to amuse indulgent parents. The crux of the plot is whether a dying man will sign his will if he is asked enough times. We see how the lovers met, which is ordinary in the extreme, and how they first bonked - in a car, so what? It was like watching paint dry. And there was no interval to walk out in. I honestly don't know why we were so thoughtful to the actors so as not just to walk out.
The story of War Horse was not particularly engaging, but it was hugely relieved by the spectacular puppetry. The trouble with "Or You Could Kiss Me" is that it wasn't even relieved by the puppetry because you could see the puppets for the puppeteers.
OK, maybe one redeeming feature. Adjoa Andoh had to switch between characters, each with different S African accents and she did that consistently and well, but really not worth wasting an evening to see. - Timothy Nathan
09 Oct 10
Couldn't see the puppets for all the black bums of the operators,missed the first 10mins from where I was sitting, as everything was being played with their backs to us! Pretentious and boring play, and I would have had that dog put down! - Thomas Rosen
07 Oct 10
Couldn't agree more. One hour and forty minutes of ill conceived pretentious rubbish. Absolutely no feeling for time or location. Impossible to see the puppets most of the time. Best thing about it was the dog. Save your time and money. I've seen better productions at my village hall. - Trev
06 Oct 10
Rearrange the following jumbled words into a well known phrase or saying... (heap) (a) (pretentious) (of) (claptrap)
They need to dump Ovid and out of control egos and stick to what they know, animal puppetry. There's an amazing dog who completely steals the show. - coral
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