This is a piece written by Peter Barnes, one in a series of monologues going under the title of Barnes People. The lead character of Michael Jennings in this is taken by probably the best impressionist in the country at the moment, Jon Culshaw, and relies less on his impressionist skills and more on his taking on the role of a ventriloquist. Set on the stage of an empty theatre, the “cast” consists of Culshaw and four of his puppets; the Billy of the title, the Major, Aunt Agnes and Uncle O’Pat, all voiced by Culshaw making use of his myriad voices. The characters of the different puppets are well developed as the narrative proceeds, as is the complex relationship between the puppeteer and his dummies, in fact you begin to wonder who is manipulating who? Are they really 2 sides of the same coin?
The origins of the act turn out to have been developed from the (considerable) time that Jennings spent as a schizophrenic in a psychiatric hospital. In his childhood he likely had numerous imaginary friends and it is these characters which have been brought to life to become the puppets around which the act is based. But do these characters supress his depression and schizophrenia or do they exacerbate it?
Although the performance ran for only 20 minutes, this was very professionally put together by Charlotte Peters. Blessed with an end-of-pier type of humour, this was actually quite a dark piece of theatre and you are left wondering who actually the boss in this relationship is? Jennings is obviously a great inventor of characters and these are brought to life by his troubled and flawed imagination.
This is well worth a watch.
Reviewer: David S. Clarke.
Reviewed: 19th February 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★
Standard – £10
With programme – £12.50
*Don’t forget you can buy our full series of four monologues for £30 here*
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Age guidance: suitable for all ages
Running time: approx. 20 mins
English subtitles available