JM Coetzee's Life & Times of Michael K

Theatre (drama, puppetry)

  • Assembly Hall - Main Hall
  • 12:00
  • Aug 27
  • 1 hour 55 minutes
  • Suitability: 0+
  • Country: South Africa
  • Group: Baxter Theatre Centre
  • Warnings and additional info: Scenes of violence, Strobe lighting, Strong language/swearing
  • Accessibility:
    Audio enhancement system
    Wheelchair Accessible Toilets
    May not apply to all performances. You'll find more information about accessibile performances and how to book tickets in the accessibility tab below.
  • Babes in arms policy: Babies do not require a ticket
  • Policy applies to: Children under 18 months


The Baxter (two-time Scotsman Fringe First winners) in collaboration with Tony Award-winning Handspring Puppet Company (of War Horse and Little Amal fame) are at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe at the Assembly Hall! The UK premiere of JM Coetzee's Life and Times of Michael K, adapted for the stage by Lara Foot. A Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus (Germany) and Baxter Theatre co-production.

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General venue access

  • Audio enhancement system
    Wheelchair Accessible Toilets
  • Accessible entry: There are 48 steps from the main entrance however there is separate level access entrance via a rear door on Lawnmarket. This is adjacent to the Johnston Terrace roundabout, and is next to the Ensign Ewart which is at 521 Lawnmarket, EH1 2PE. Please ring doorbell for entry.
  • Wheelchair access type: Level Access

  • Stairs: 20+
    Number of stairs is provided as guidance and is not in addition to any wheelchair access type (lift/ramp etc) stated above.

Each venue can contain several space with different accessibly information. Visit the venue page for full venue accessibility info

How and when to make an access booking

Our access tickets service is available to anyone who:

  • Would like to book specific accessibility services, e.g. a hearing loop, audio description headsets, captioning units, seating in relation to the location of the BSL interpreter
  • Requires extra assistance when at a venue
  • Has specific seating requirements
  • Is a wheelchair user
  • Requires a complimentary personal assistant ticket to attend a performance

Paul Devine 29 days ago

There are lots of eloquent positive reviews here and I'll just echo them. Can't understand the people this didn't work for, it was fantastic. Better than war horse for me.

Mark Hunt 29 days ago

Life and times of Michael K ( J M Coetzee) 4*
By Baxter theatre (South Africa) and Handspring (Uk)
Full 2 hrs stage production of the story of a poor black man caught up in a civil war. Born with a cleft lip and forever disadvantaged by poverty, Michael journeys out of Cape Town with his mother in search of her birth place and sanctuary from the war. Unfortunately he can never escape the incursions of cruelty and apartheid. A tale of survival given interest and drama by the mixed human and puppet cast. I felt the production could have done with a couple more moments of lightness just to give better contrast.

Glynis Wozniak 31 days ago

Whilst a lover of words, it is absolutely impossible for me to leave a review that suitably expresses my awe and appreciation for this production.
The exquisitely detailed puppets clearly crafted with such love, are a work of art in themselves and true characters, whilst also being an extension of the actor-puppeteers.
This show is very demanding on the actors and yet it looked effortless. I felt as if I was watching a movie and was utterly riveted from start to finish.
The detail; the humour; the trials and tribulations of poverty in South Africa are portrayed with breathtaking movement sequences that are strong yet tender.
When Michael departed from the stage, I cried. I spent the rest of the day wondering how a 'prop' with no life could connect my heart - and that shows just how much love was poured into him from the puppet makers and the actors.
I jumped to my feet immediately for the curtain call, as did others, and I will call out 'Bravo!' to you and this gift of a production for evermore.

Ken Anderson 31 days ago

A wonderful performance. Amazing puppetry, wonderful voice work from the cast. Truly remarkable how the entire cast and crew instilled such life, tenderness and character into the various puppets. Loved it! Couldn’t recommend highly enough. A deserved standing ovation at the end.

Megan Anderson 31 days ago

Breathtaking wonderful! Superb how the puppets came to life, loved every minute!

Cait 32 days ago

Absolutely beautiful. Incredible puppetry -- the puppets seem so realistic, and their movement and the movement of the puppeteers is like choreography. So powerful.

Cathy Want 32 days ago

So absorbing and clever, the puppetry is beautiful. The physicality and voice work of the actors is stunning and sustained throughout. Moments of comedy lift the terribly sad narrative creating even more impact as you move through Michael's story.

Mark Mesarch 33 days ago

I found the show very moving and incredible puppetry work. With all the actors playing multiple roles it was easy to keep Michael and his mother focused as the puppets. And I think that having them as puppets also helped diffuse them from being an actual person to how they could relate to so many people that went through their same journey. I really enjoyed the staging and the circular flow of the script.

Kedesha Vassell 34 days ago

Moving adaptation of JM Coetzee’s book, which documents the life of Michael, who is born with a cleft lip to a mother who is repulsed by the sight of him at birth and a society which considers him less than, because of his deformity. His difficulties are compounded by the fictitious civil war facing the country at the time.

The actors were compelling and talented in bringing the characters to life and the narration and puppetry were well executed. At almost two hours, it’s not a short performance, but the show is done in such a way that you get really engrossed in Michael’s journey, and before you know it, the time passes and you’re left in awe of such a touching, poignant, yet beautiful production.

Tony Arn 34 days ago

While the puppeteering wirk is excellent and the talented cast does some beautiful work, I'm afraid I found this vastly overrated. I don't see that having the title character and his mother as puppets instead of real actors' did much to add to the show, except perhaps to distract from the thinness of the characters, and for several important speeches, the puppet moved to the background and the actor voicing him did them alone. The horses in War Horse were of course brilliantly done and theatrical needs made sense of using puppets, but I saw no such necessity here. Well done, but long and tedious.

Jason Hu 35 days ago

As everyone says, it's a very impressive work of puppetry (including at least one truly incredible scene taking the protagonist on an underwater chase). But stagecraft aside, I found myself wondering whether this story of a South African man's journey through apartheid is actually served by the puppetry? Wouldn't this play be stronger if the central characters were played by actual Black actors? Altogether, the puppetry and dialogue have the effect of reducing the protagonist to a seemingly simple-minded blank slate. Like Forest Gump, but without the inherent empathy of a real human face to anchor the pathos. Despite the puppeteers' heroic efforts, the protagonist cannot exceed being a one-dimensional, fairy-tale caricature. He never becomes a flesh-and-blood man.

Gillian Gillanders 36 days ago

Gripping and moving tale of a disintegrating society. Brilliantly told by actors and puppeteers. Very highly recommended.

JuleS 36 days ago

Incredible performance. The handling of the puppets and the way they interact with the actors was extraordinary and mesmerising. Who would have thought that puppets could convey emotion so convincingly? The standing ovation was well-deserved. A show worthy of a London stage!

Laura Lonsdale 37 days ago

One of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen on stage. Congratulations to all involved!

Karen du Plessis 37 days ago

Superb piece, we loved it, the cast were wonderful, breathing life into the puppets. all of which are beautiful. Thank you to The Baxter Theatre, all the cast & crew. Highly recommended

Ferring Kev 37 days ago

Absolutely incredible. From about 10 mins-in it draws you in amd the puppets become people conveying a powerful message of hope-in-despair, unconditional love and of friendship. It took me about 2 hrs to "come down" from the emotional journey I had been taken-on.
Incredible performances all-round.

Shobhana Das 38 days ago

It was very emotional and had beautiful puppetry . You felt the humans disappeared!
There are some distressing scenes in it.
I would highly recommend it.

Paul Rosenzweig 38 days ago

See this show. The puppet comes truly alive in a way that is magical. 9ne of my top 2 this year at Fringe.

Michael Colao 38 days ago

We had originally not intended to see this. I saw puppetry and I viewed the show as too high risk, as bad puppet shows are execrable. But we were talking to friends, and as you do, I asked which was the best show they had seen at the fringe, and they identified this one, so I bought tickets with hope but no expectations. I am so glad that I did. The story is indeed a bit bleak, but the staging is sensational. The cast is universally strong, and I saw a piece of theatre very unlike stuff I had seen before and a piece of theatre that I will remember for a very long time. Some scenes, like that of the protagonist wrestling a goat underwater, was not something I thought would be possible to stage in live theatre, but these talented performers, brought this complex tale to life.

Mhairi McCann 38 days ago

Saw this today and blown away by its simple Theatre magic. The cast are one gifted body throughout and I as others was moved to stand in ovation after an emotional two hours of genuine moving performance. For a midday show, no small feat.
This is staged storytelling at its very best. Beautiful moments of inspired direction and the vocal and physical delivery by the actors joyful to hear and see.
This performance resonates with you on so many levels, as you watch it and after when you are left with this little ache for a life so fraught with tragedy but so uplifting in terms of resilience. As with War Horse I came away almost in love with the puppet characters. The way the puppeteers work, breath and flow as one with their crafted alter egos is just amazing to see. Go see this while you can. I’m so grateful I did.

Snap Judgement 43 days ago

★★☆☆☆ Kindly skip the hype

* Profound Material. A tale of a naive protagonist navigating life's harshest realities amidst a civil war.
* Meticulous Craftsmanship. Puppets and set artistry that merit applause.

* Underutilised Puppetry. Anticipated innovative storytelling, but the puppets were just along for the ride.
* Pacing Issues. With a narrative pulse akin to a lullaby, some audience members (yours truly included) struggled to keep their eyes open.
* Sophistication Slip. Topics intended for mature audiences, yet at times felt a tad juvenile in execution.

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Anne Gaskell 43 days ago

Wonderful drama of the book which I had not read but it did not matter . Highly atmospheric and beautiful music accompanying the tale . Stunning and dramatic and moving . The ,setting and use of projection at times was incredible . The puppets and puppetry absolutely amazing . What a performance for almost 2 hours See this if you can .

Betsy Leondar-Wright 44 days ago

Everyone should see this show! You’ll never forget it. A masterpiece of writing, acting, puppetry, physical theater and especially stagecraft, how locations and situations are brought alive with adroit use of props and movement. Best show we’ve seen at this year’s Fringe!

Miles Roberts 45 days ago

Excellent show. Start to finish. Some lovely signature pieces from Handspring, an excellent and engaging cast combined to make excellent theatre and passionate storytelling! Bravo!

You must see this show!

Colleen 45 days ago

I loved this production, it was moving and emotional. So well done. Well worth going to see. If you loved war horse you will love this. ❤️

Lisa Manus 45 days ago

My festival highlight! The actors, puppeteers and puppets performed together beautifully, giving us a multi-sensory experience of the life of Michael K. The two protagonists, Michael and his mother (the puppets), were so life-like and touching it brought tears to my eyes. There were moments of sublime beauty, for example in the scene when Michael dives into the make-believe water: he sinks down, then swims up again, it was art in motion. There were so many lovely moments in the smallest of details like when the mum scratches herself, or Michael heaves himself up when hurt. I felt they were real people with their own characters. I was most taken with the actor/ puppeteer who played Michael’s main gestures and movements, he expressed what Michael would have expressed had he been real. The connection between him and Michael was in total unison, almost as if it had been between two people, I was completely mesmerised by him. A must see!!!

William (Billy) Weems 45 days ago


Charlie 46 days ago

Such a beautiful production. A wonderful cast, beautifully directed with highly creative movement and puppetry. I found this incredibly powerful and moving. Be aware that it is nearly two hours without an interval. But the seats are comfortable, the space is lovely and it is definitely worth it. What a wonderful experience - a must see.

JULIAN Embleton 47 days ago

This was an incredibly emotional and moving performance
The whole experience of the soundscape and acting and storytelling was impeccable, and you would have to be a very cold person not to be drawn in to the narrative. Every aspect of the show was superb and the actors were emotionally engaged in the story throughout. However, the star of the show has to be the two puppets of Michael and his mother. The expression on the face of Michael summed up the whole kaleidoscope of human suffering, misery, hardship and sorrow, although there are also some light and funny moments.
Overall one of the best shows I have ever seen, I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.

Esme Thornhill-Davis 47 days ago

If you see one show at the Fringe let it be this. Masterful puppetry of a deeply affecting story, this production is ingenious.

Meg 48 days ago

Incredible storytelling. A deeply moving production that will stay with me for a long time.

mary snow 49 days ago

Thoroughly recommend this show.

Hazel Marks 49 days ago

One of those shows that will stay in the memory for a long time. The company and crew worked tirelessly to bring the puppets to life to create quite simply magical theatre moments. Definitely a must-see production.

S. 49 days ago

Love the wonderful, intricate machinery props. Love the beautiful relations between puppeteers and puppets. The two puppeteers who gave voice to K
and his mother definitely magnificent

Isabel Marks 49 days ago

Very moving and superb storytelling by a very talented cast!

Martin Evans 50 days ago

A superb narrative with outstanding performances, interweaving puppetry and acting! One of the must see's of the Edinburgh festival. Definitely a 5 star rating!

Jeannine Mjoseth 50 days ago

My partner and I were completely blown away by the artistry, the poetry and the overall mesmerizing story telling of Michael K!

Sarah 50 days ago

First class production! Captivating performance and beautiful storytelling.

Brian Doe 50 days ago

Amazing show, was totally drawn in the whole performance. The actors, puppetry, story - all amazing. Highly recommend!

Shona Mcintosh 50 days ago

Incredible puppetry, brilliant performances. Don’t miss it! 5*****

ClayG 50 days ago

The story telling is powerful and moving.
The puppetry and acting are like nothing I've seen before.
I highly recommend this highly enough though not targeted at children

l52 50 days ago

Beautifully performed - moving and absorbing. Not suitable for children (despite puppets) - death of parent/chid + starvation + cruelty. Much more joyful than this sounds! Very high quality theatre - recommended.

Leon van Zyl 51 days ago

‘Epic…amazingly crafted puppetry…this is magic realism and magical staging.’
The Irish Times

‘Exquisite puppetry…immense artistry. A sweeping adaptation…majestic.’
The Guardian

‘Wonderful... innovative and it charms’.
The Reviews Hub

‘A work of art…phenomenal.’
Galway City Tribune

'The Life & Time of Michael K, directed by Lara Foot, who is brilliant, is absolutely mesmerizing. The Handspring Puppet Company's puppets, you cannot take your eyes off, and the work of the company, such as you don't often see. I found it most riveting, strange, weirdly wonderfully theatrical production. You got to see it.'
Dame Janet Suzman

Participants - for further details on our audience and published review policies, including how to add or opt out of reviews, please click here.

All Edinburgh Theatre (5/5 stars) 30 days ago


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Everything Theatre (5/5 stars) 32 days ago

A breathtakingly powerful reflection on humanity and humankind, achieved through masterful storytelling and exceptional puppetry in a flawless, emotive production.

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Bouquets & Brickbats (4.5/5 stars) 32 days ago

This is a gentle but powerful production that has the crowd up on its feet at its conclusion. If spectacle is what you’re looking for at the Fringe, this is definitely one to seek out.

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ArtsHub 37 days ago

Wrought from jaw-dropping craft and artistry, ensemble performance and puppeteering, storytelling and stagecraft, The Life and Times of Michael K is as close to theatrical perfection as is possible.

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Fringe Review 39 days ago

we have been enthralled in this utterly poignant, well crafted and performed story.

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Fest (3/5 stars) 44 days ago

A moving adaptation of JM Coetzee’s masterpiece.

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British Theatre Guide (5/5 stars) 46 days ago

This show must surely be one of the high points of the 2023 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

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Playbill 47 days ago

it earned the standing ovation the Fringe crowd gave it

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Participants - for further details on our audience and published review policies, including how to add or opt out of reviews, please click here.

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Participants - for further details on our audience and published review policies, including how to add or opt out of reviews, please click here.