The show we were treated to was Ronnie Burkett’s new piece, ‘Billy Twinkle; Requiem for a Golden Boy’.
It will get better. Won’t it?
I was disappointed. Last evening’s performance was not his best work. The script doesn’t live up to Ronnie’s previous works, although the storyline and the concept seem solid enough. His work with the hand puppet (vs. his masterful manipulation of the marionettes) leaves a great deal to be desired. And his voices… the range, the tonal quality, the timbre all seemed too close to each other, with sporadic, unsustained exceptions. There was a frenetic quality to the interactions with the hand puppet that just didn’t feel right… a great deal of the significance of the language and the interaction was lost. I’m sure that now that opening night is over, he will slow it down, find the best pacing for those very intense scenes, and settle into his normal, seemingly casual rhythms of presentation. We saw a glimpse of that usual Ronnie when he missed a prop clearance, and wove the error back into his banter… now that was some of the Burkett magic that I was looking for.
From a scripting point of view, there are some things that need rewriting… which I’m sure he’ll find as he goes along. There are a lot of sexuality references which advance the story; there are too many overtly sexual references which don’t. He either needs more of the puppet show-within-the-puppet show (he does a brilliant stripper, a drunken socialite, a moment with a bear on roller-skates and a bitter-sweet bit with an old man and balloon) or he needs less. The Juliet needs more work… it seems confused, unfocused, and the presentation, the delivery of Shakespeare’s language was totally inadequate for that moment, and those rants at the beginning of the piece… which brings me to my final point. Ronnie Burkett is an exceptional puppeteer, and a wonderful raconteur, which, when put together with a well deployed script, make for an astonishing evening of theatre. Unfortunately, Ronnie Burkett is not an actor.