'Platero – Travels with a Donkey' – Mike Maran Productions and Marjanishvili Theatre
‘Platero – Travels with a Donkey’ is a quality production for adults, exploring themes of friendship, nature and Spanish culture. Based on the celebrated stories by the late Spanish poet Juan Ramón Jiménez, who won a Nobel Prize in 1956, the play focuses on the world of Platero – a small silver donkey with a steely constitution and a heart of gold – and his narrator/poet owner, as they explore the Spanish countryside together.
The jointed wooden Platero is a wonderfully expressive little marionette on wires, controlled by Georgian performer Nino Namitcheishvili. Using a rotating circular tabletop as the main performance space (expertly controlled with a deft touch of the foot on an attached spinning plate below), the puppeteer works quickly to give the donkey life. Every clop of his wooden feet on the surface is a delight as he trots on by. Platero’s blinking eyes also bring realism and allow for some adorable scenes when he falls asleep.
The town of Moguer, in the province of Huelva, Andalusia has been reproduced exquisitely in mini scale by Namitcheishvili and her team of artists from the Marjanishvili Theatre in Tbilisi, Georgia. The little whitewashed buildings are of a traditional Spanish style and help cart the audience back to 100 years ago.
With his commanding presence, veteran performer Mike Maran holds our attention as the narrator and his passion for the stories is patently clear. His strong Scottish accent is a little distracting at first, particularly as his character discusses his Spanish heritage, but you soon accept this and buy into his Andalusian roots. Most importantly, the friendship between man and donkey is a heart-warming example of acting and puppetry coming together with convincing results.
Maran has selected a strong handful of stories from Jiménez’s original Platero tales (of which there are 138), along with 15 accompanying pieces of music by the late Italian composer Mario Castelnuovo Tedesco, who wrote them specifically to accompany the stories. The soundtrack, recorded specially for this production by Australian guitarist Craig Ogden, is a beautiful accompaniment to the trotting of Platero’s hoofs.
With a Georgian creative team and director (Leven Tsuladze), Scottish narrator and Australian musician, this production boasts international influences but this doesn’t detract from the truly Spanish flavour found within. As Platero and his master discover birds nesting in the village church roof, admire the Rio Tinto and taste grapes in the local vineyards, you genuinely feel as if you’ve stepped into a world of sunshine and siestas.
'Platero - Travels with a Donkey'
Mike Maran Productions and Marjanishvili Theatre
In association with Norwich Puppet Theatre, Colchester Mercury Theatre and NFA International Arts & Culture