Saturday, 30 November 2013

Do Marionettes talk?

How do we, the Marionettes, talk? Yes certainly there is a recorded voice or someone just talking for it. Though how do you catch the character you want to portrait? The voice is a very strong lead  for each character on stage. You may choose a high or low voice, a growl or lisp, a funny voice or a straight up intonation. The range is staggering and as an actor you are trained in the ways to modify your voice for a given occasion. The carved figure is helping here as it portraits a character in itself. The above is a small sample of voice  and I will add some more to give the contrast. Being a solo performer, it is at times a challenge to get the right tone that contrasts enough with all the others in the show. They have to be clear and audible, pinpointing the character of the Marionette and giving clues to the audience. Intonation and the play with dialects and tone, I love that aspect of getting a production on stage. Here are a few options for the same character, have a look and listen.
 Any favourites so far? Try the next two maybe they will do!?

What do you think? The top one is his usual stage voice.  Cheers

Sunday, 24 November 2013

RUMPELSTITZKIN a Brothers Grimm Fairytale

Rumpelstiltzkin is certainly my favourite fairytale. All characters seem to be a shade of grey, the miller tells white lies, the king is greedy and gullible, the miller’s daughter sees potential of advancement and Rumpelstiltzkin well he tries to help but maybe asks for more than he should. It makes it very human in a way, as we can ask who is without blame. There are many other readings for it and it’s a great way to discuss moral ethics with children. My King, a rather down on his luck one, sees a chance to regain wealth and here is a little scene with him complaining. Brotha M, the brother of Mustava, is a street smart wise guy and most of the time overenthusiastic. He can’t help himself as you might notice in the little sketch. This tale is just a brilliant story for all ages with a lot of contemporary sidelines. Find time to watch the whole show somewhere near you. Have a little taste with two characters of the team.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Productions past and present

Productions of the last 30 years which are not in chronological order

In these productions I have often taken well known and loved stories, then putting my own twist on them, but more often creating original material.

           Rumpelstiltzkin a Brother Grimm Fairytale

·         Jack and the Beanstalk

·         Snow White and the seven Dwarfs

·         Fading memories

·         Mustava and the Moon

·         Mustava and the Kauri Giant

·         Plays by Hans Sachs and Till Eulenspiegel

·         Yes - Tabletop Theatre Production about New Zealand’s History

·         Little Red  Riding Hood

·         Commissioned production from Dominion Museum for Davida Allen show

·         Commissioned production for the Goethe Institute for Classroom work in Australia and New Zealand

·         Rumpelstiltzkin goes Hip Hop together production with Musicisthelanguage

·         Videos without words production with Musicisthelanguage

·         Titanic the Marionette show

·         Beauty and the Beast – in production

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Marionette Gallery 3 - The old man and the woodcutter -

The old man and the woodcutter. Both performed in a number of plays and yes the old man has toured around the world on a number of occasions. He developed a rather deep smokers cough that sounds rather unhealthy. Might have been the climate change from +30 in Africa to - 30 in Siberia just a few month apart. Then again, lets face it I have no idea what these guys are up to when I go to bed. The woodcutter is a bit simple but pleasant, during exciting moments his hairpiece might lift off.... rather embarrassing he thinks.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Overseas travel 2

Russia, or better the former Sowjetunion, has established puppet theatres around its vast country. Obraszow, a friend of Stalin and puppeteer must have got the ball rolling and here on our travels in Siberia the legacy, after the fall of the iron curtain, was still evident. The former eastern block countries were all fond of puppetry but I never had a chance to visit there and experience it. We, Nico Suave a rapper, Werner and myself and the puppets performed in beautifully design and equipped puppet theatres with 50 and more members, the costume designer, the director, front of house, light person and sound engineer, ....... and yes there were puppeteers too. It was simply wonderful; anything you could think of was possible. Though as a solo performer, with a minimal set up, it was at times overbearing. No thank you just one light will do. For them a surprise.... you can do it all alone? And you designed and carved and dressed all the marionettes???  Everybody was interested, welcoming and very friendly  on this tour, set into motion by Werner from Musicisthelanguage and the Goethe Institute in Novosibirsk. Yes it was November 2012 and the temperature went down to minus 30 degree Celsius, but you spend most of the time indoors. And going out was not a big problem as it is a very dry cold and my jeans, a sweater and a wind jacket did the trick.  The cities we visited, Novosibirsk, Omsk, Tomsk und Irkutsk were reached by travelling with the Transsiberian Railways. The carriages are HUGE with two staff per wagon. A samovar supplied us with hot water and so the hours passed with endless cups of tea, frozen windows and a white landscape outside.  A myriad of impressions  later one finds oneself back in New Zealand and it all seems slightly unreal. Those beautifullll wooden houses build from solid logs with dovetail joints on every outside corner, the shop selling ice cream when its well into 20 below, the open air farmers market selling meat... no refrigeration needed, the Baikal Sea set in white, culture, markets, art, frozen cities full of life, thanks for the wonderful time. 

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Marionette Gallery 2 - The little dwarf -

This is the little Dwarf who was part of Mustava and the Kauri Giant as well as the new modified production of Snow white and the seven Dwarfs. Most of my marionettes are about 600 mm high, this fellow is only 200mm. His cute movements and voice are a hit with each audience. Rather bossy in nature he does not take no for an answer....... you might meet him yourself one day.

Marionette Gallery 1 - The war veteran

With this Gallery idea I would like to introduce you to the characters that make up Strings Attached Puppet Theatre. Like I mentioned before, they are all individuals that come (more or less voluntarily) together to do a performance.
The one legged war veteran was created from my childhood memories. Second World War veterans did not have the level of prosthesis technology that is around today, things were rather simple. So some poor souls had to get by on wooden crutches. He has a friend that had a similar fate, he is in a wheelchair. Both performed in -Fading memories- a play that toured in the 1990s. All about what is remembered, the stories of a veteran, and the memories that are not really fading or are they?

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Marionette Construction

There are so many ways to put it all together its not funny. From the Marionette control right down to the way the legs and arms are attached is open to different possibilities. Should you have any questions about what I do and you want to know it in more detail just write a comment, happy to share. There is no perfect one way solution, there are many ways to achieve your aim. I carve my figures, well at least the hands and heads. Wood gives me a good weight for each Marionette and helps it not to tangle. That proofed successful as some of my characters are past their 30th birthday and still work smooth and perfectly like the day they were made.  In contrast to many other theatres, well all the ones I know and heard of, I tend to work on a character base. Meaning that instead of creating a set for one show, they are individual characters that get put together for a performance. So some of  them perform in a number of different shows.

When the carving is done tend to work on the body structure. Next is the painting and costume creation. Should one step not proof right, just go back and try again. All planning in the world does not beat the hands on experience. The last step is to attach them to their control and make a sleeping bag for them.

Overseas travel

Overseas Travel

For February 2013 Werner from Musicisthelanguage (Check out his website) in conjunction with Goethe Institutes in Africa did organise a four weeks Africa Tour. Well talking about something different! Memories of travels in Central America as a late teenager came to mind. I did not have to wait till Africa. Injected with an antidote against anything going I found myself in Paris travelling by bus from airport to airport. Clochards that live at the airport and on transfer seeing plastic villages along the motorway, made me realise that the third world conditions have arrived in Europe.  Over Casablanca the route went to West Africa. We went to Togo, Benin, Guinea and Ivory Coast. No time for culture shock we went straight into workshops and shows.  The ability to improvise and work around given circumstances was essential. The children reacted amazingly to the shows with music and participation being built in. The whole journey was simply dazzling from the fruit bats leaving their downtown trees to the bullet holes from recent civil wars, bartering in markets and enthusiastic young students keen to talk and exchange ideas, it was an avalanche of impressions, smells and sounds. Yes Africa is unique and amazing, scary and exhilarating and it puts yourself into a very different perspective.  The return flight to Wellington took 40 hours glad to be home too.