4 stars - "Comedy Gold"
The performance begins with the house lights still up. Two performers (Fiona Clift and Tom Espiner) dressed in black enter towards the back of the stage. They dramatically stand without moving a muscle. Then, not so dramatically, our director (Mark Down) stumbles onto the stage. He is an anxious and nervous man, but has a lot of ego. He lets the audience know that they are witnessing a workshop for a performance based on his life. He claims it is not a puppetry performance, as this is a lesser art. Instead we will witness a masterclass in “object manipulation”.
The story of Henry revolves around the aforementioned director. Henry is the father of the director and was a Shakespearean actor who recently passed away. The show contains scenes from the proposed masterclass that is seemingly ocuring on the stage. The audience are observing the master at work as he directs his two students and teaches them the secrets of improvisation and object manipulation. Occasionally the director addresses the audience and asks our opinion of his genius. This further emphasises his lack of awareness and also the comedic backbone of Henry.
Puppetry is actually present in the show, but it is fleeting. Henry makes an occasional appearance in puppet form. He is an old and passive looking character and is imaginativly made up of black bin liners. His ghostly presence haunts the director and brings about moments of over the top melodrama. This along with the bravado of the director invites moment of pure comedy gold and the audience laughs throughout.
Occasionally there is some genuine warmth in Henry. The story presents how a son can love and care of his father and feel a great loss in their absence. At one point we see Henry in his full black bin liner glory. He spreads out his magnificent pitch black angel wings and takes up space on the stage. The moment is powerful and majestic to watch. Henry is a funny and clever performance, but more puppets and less object manipulation might have made it even more enjoyable.