They Call Him Mr. Tips

The story is packed with jubilant lindy-hop dancing, a swinging jump blues band, a bit of drag, puppets and theatrical razzle-dazzle.


Published:

Ncuti Gatwa (Adi) and Nandi Bhebhe in "946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips."

Photo by Steve Tanner

Berkeley Rep audiences have fallen in love with Cornwall’s Kneehigh Theatre, which keeps bringing dazzlingly theatrical pieces infused with music and mythic resonance such as The Wild Bride and Tristan & Yseult as well as Brief Encounter at ACT. These were all beautifully directed by Emma Rice, the erstwhile Kneehigh artistic director who took on that same position this year at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, a reconstructed version of the original theater that William Shakespeare’s playing company built in the Elizabethan era. (Rice announced in October that she’ll be leaving the Globe in 2018 over irreconcilable differences with the board over her use of modern lighting.) Now Kneehigh returns to Berkeley with 946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tibs.

Also directed by Rice and coming fresh from a run at the Globe, Kneehigh’s latest is based on a 2005 children’s novel by Michael Morpugo, author of the 1982 book War Horse that became a puppetry-enhanced stage sensation and a Steven Spielberg movie. War Horse is a tale about what becomes of a British horse in World War I, so, of course, The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips is about the adventures of a cat in a seaside English village during World War II.

Tips’ human companion is Lily, a 12-year-old farm girl who watches her town taken over by American forces doing training exercises to prepare for D-Day (including one ill-fated trial run that gives the stage adaptation by Morpugo and Rice the grim statistic of its title) and struggles in vain to keep the inquisitive cat out of trouble.

Kneehigh packs the story with jubilant lindy-hop dancing, a swinging jump blues band, a bit of drag, puppets and theatrical razzle-dazzle, bringing a fanciful playfulness and sense of wonder to the inevitable tragedy of war.

946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips, Dec. 2-Jan. 15, Tue., Thu., Fri., Sat., 8 p.m.; Wed., Sun. 7 p.m.; Sat., Sun. 2 p.m.; Berkeley Repertory Theatre, 2015 Addison St., Berkeley; $29-$97; 510- 647-2949, BerkeleyRep.org.

 

This report appeared in the December edition of our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.

Published online on Dec. 1, 2016 at 8:00 a.m.

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