When Jack Gleeson left Game of Thrones in 2014, he said he was going to give up acting, but that’s not been the case. Perhaps he meant TV and film, which he has actually stayed out of since finishing his role as King Joffrey Baratheon – but on stage at least, Gleeson has remained active. Case in point: the puppetry play he’s in, Bears In Space, which he and his company, Collapsing Horse Theatre, took to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August 2014, then did a second run of at the Soho Theatre in London in 2015. Now he and his castmates are taking it to New York City for another run in September – but what exactly is it?
It’s mostly done with puppets
Gleeson and his castmates – who formed Collapsing Horse at Trinity College Dublin, where they all went to uni – spend the comedy play animating a group of puppets (mostly bears) who in the story have been cryogenically frozen in their spaceship until they approach some form of civilisation. When they awake, they decide to head to a nearby planet to find essential resources needed to save one of the still-frozen bears, who’s in the grip of an illness. They find a host of ridiculous characters there, along with some plot resolution.
There’s music and live narration
The narrator sits to the side of the stage with a violin and every so often moves the story along with music or spoken word. Like the puppets, it’s charmingly lo-fi.
Jack Gleeson plays several characters
They all do, actually – some of them play both the good bears and the evil bears. Eventually the number of puppets onstage reaches a ridiculous critical mass. In the version I saw (at the Fringe in 2014) Gleeson was lying down on the ground for about half of the play while he was voicing the ship’s artificial intelligence (a HAL 9000-style figure who was learning to tell jokes). Gleeson also played a particularly memorable misanthropic tree called Skin, who was just horrifying.
It’s really funny
It combines surreal, Pythonesque humour with the kind of creepy stuff you’d expect from The League of Gentlemen.
Bears In Space plays at 59E59 Theaters between September 6 and October 2, 2016.