I love any opportunity to go to The Met in Bury. It’s a beautiful Victorian building, slap-bang in the centre of town, built in the 1840s in the neo-classical style. It was originally christened The Derby Hall but was always known in Bury as The Public Rooms or The Town Hall.
Bury Metropolitan Arts Association have called it their home since 1979 and have spent the last quarter of a century staging packed programmes of theatre, concerts and stand-up comedy.
I had the opportunity to go again this week, to see the Mike Maran and Marjanishvili Theatre production of Platero Y Yo (Me and My Donkey).
The original stories were written by Nobel Literature Laureate, Juan Ramón Jiménez, and celebrated life in the town of Moguer, through the eyes of the poet and his companion, Platero.
I particularly enjoyed the reminiscences of the poet about a huge tree, The Pine of La Corona, which had been a constant throughout his life and something he described as “the only thing that stayed big when I grew up”. This line, I feel, resonates for us all. On more than one occasion, the poet highlights his separation from the rest of the town by wistfully repeating the line that he and Platero “are not cut out for such things”.
The combination of Jiménez’ words, the miniature set of Moguer’s buildings and the splendid puppetry work of Marjanishvili gave us a charming hour of theatre. Also, the beautiful, acoustic backdrop composed by classical guitarist, Craig Ogden, thoroughly complemented the work.
Enjoyable as Platero Y Yo was, for me it felt like something was slightly lacking and I think it was in Mike Maran’s performance. Mike, as the poet, has a strong physical presence and I expected that this, coupled with his deep Edinburgh burr, would give the us a comforting warmth to engage with – but I didn’t feel that he really took us with him on this exploration of the ebb and flow of life in Andalucia. Occasionally, there were little fumbles in the delivery of the lines and I couldn’t be sure if this was idiosyncrasy or hesitation. This wasn’t always the case and the vignette about Christmas Eve in the town was charming, where a rotating, wooden table was used to great effect.
Nino Marjanishvili’s manipulation of the Platero puppet endeared us to the animal, despite my initial concern that the doll seemed too rudimentary in form to convey the emotion depth required. Throughout the play, her work silently drove things along. We did hear her once, when she sang a beautiful lullaby during the recounting of one of the stories.
Master puppeteers are always particularly fascinating to watch. Their ability to breathe life and depth into inanimate objects is a hugely admirable and underrated art form.
Platero Y Yo is a graceful little production that occasionally reminded me of the pace and way of life in Il Postino and Cinema Paradiso and its simple intimacy makes it suitable for all.
Review by Charlie Bell
Where: The Met, Bury town centre, Bury
When: May 15, 2013 and touring until June 28, 2013