Game of Thrones heart-throb Jack Gleeson is back on the stage – this time with a comedy puppet show about bears that explores the importance of friendship.
Gleeson – who left the hit HBO series after playing villain Joffrey Baratheon for three years – co-wrote and stars in Bears in Space at London’s Soho Theatre, along with actors Aaron Heffernan and Eoghan Quinn.
With live music provided by Cameron Macaulay, the show centres around two cosmonaut bears on a spaceship hurtling towards the limits of the universe, pursued by outlaws.
And while the piece was unanimously praised for being hilariously funny at Edinburgh Fringe last year, Gleeson confesses that there’s a deeper meaning. “Perhaps the moral we would like people to walk away with is the basic idea that others are fundamental to a fulfilled life,” he says.
“Bears In Space is a sci-fi comedy powerhouse with a heart of gold. It will not just make you smile at the comedy and cool-world creation but also at the themes of love and loyalty that underpin it.
“Friendships and romantic relationships should be fought for and nurtured, even if it takes a butt-load of work to do so.”
Heffernan – who makes all the show’s puppets, and stars opposite Jaime Winstone in the upcoming film Love/Rosie, said: “The dialogue is interlaced with the romantic tragedy of our hero’s lost love and the antagonistic, yet heartwarming, friendship between two shipmates.”
Bears in Space sprang from a pilot for a kids’ show, which the actors enjoyed doing so much they extended it into an hour-long piece for adults.
The use of puppets, says Quinn, allows the trio to easily ‘get into the fantastical settings of our stories’.
He explains: “Our first show as Collapsing Horse Theatre Company was with puppets, and it’s just something we’ve always liked from a comic performance point of view, but also because it allows us to multiply the number of mental characters.”
But puppetry has its downsides, not least the risk of injury. “The first few shows of every run, my arms start to feel a deep burn, and it can become really tough just to keep the puppets aloft for the final 15 minutes,” says Quinn.
“You start to sink slowly into the stage, as if your puppet was a lead weight. Luckily I’ve not had any actual injuries yet, though I have brittle, gossamer wrists, so I wouldn’t be surprised.”
Bears in Space runs at the Soho Theatre, London, from August 3 – 22.