Wednesday, 27 August 2014

puppetry and politics

YES it is election year in New Zealand and this September the country can decide the future course of our beloved islands. Thought it is therefore very appropriate to weave it into my blog.

For a lot of people there are only questions marks having those two p words together. Though there is a long history of this partnership. It is not only and all about entertaining when it comes to puppets, there can be clear political messages too. Early on Puppeteers travelled from town to town and were the bringer of news, in times when newspapers did not exist, not to mention radio, tv, phone or internet. Reading up on the history of our profession there are many instances that puppeteers were thrown out of town for political engagement. During the second world war puppeteers were used to entertain troops with clear political guidelines of what to perform, at least on the German side. I have a number of scripts from those days that make your hair stand on end.

Does it exist today you may ask, certainly it does. I was drawn to it by an article in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung on humour in Syria where it mentioned Masasitmati. Curious about it, you tube gave me the answer with some very exciting clips. Hand puppets as a caricature of political actors with funny dialogues. Half will have past me by not knowing the political situation there to any deep extend. Though there it was political theatre with puppets no doubt hilarious for an insider.

Today the Bread and Puppet Theatre in the USA is widely known for using the art to spread a political message. Peter Schumann, its founder, had a clear vision and saw the poverty and  abuse of power and what and exciting medium to get the message across. Check the internet there are numerous entries and you tube clips, its very interesting

Here in New Zealand it was Red Mole who used theatre, puppetry, masks and performing arts to great effect. They toured New Zealand extensively and worked in New York. Sadly Sally Rodwell and Alan Brunton are not among us any more but their legacy lives on with all the people that worked with them over the years.

Spitting Image is a British satirical puppet show of the 80s and 90s. It won Bafta and Emmy awards and I still remember scenes from those days about Thatcher and Ronald Regan. It found many copycats around the world, among them one here in New Zealand. 


PLEASE EXPLORE!!!!! and create your own show, the world needs it!

Monday, 25 August 2014

Marionette gallery 14 - The seven dwarfs

The seven Dwarfs from the famous Brothers Grimm fairy tale of Snow White. It is part of world heritage and Walt Disney promoted it to his profit very well. For me the dwarfs were never the cute little figures created in the USA. Before I carved them in wood in 1999 I reflected on them and their life. Digging for gold and diamonds is no walk in the park. Accidents do happen and leave their marks on the body of the little miners. They are also not that jolly either. So some have an eye missing crippled fingers or other mishaps.

The next problem was how to get them on to the stage. The solution, a controlle that can have them appear as 'one' or in a group of three or two groups of two. This gave a lot of combination and action possibilities. As a choreographed appearance they created a lot of laughs. When they moved together, one for all and all for one, forward backward or in circles it was hilarious.  There needed to be a more articulated figure as well. So the leader dwarf was created as a solo marionette
Here he is the leader of the pack. With his big solid hands that can swing the pick and shovel with ease. He could interact on stage as an individual and after leaving the stage could return with all his mates.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

the presence of the past, before the internet got BIG, 1990 and 1994

Reorganising my house shifting and changing, it is amazing what comes to the fore. From times before the internet was around and yes there were festivals too. And yes if its not on the net some might think it did/does not exist.
1990 might seem long ago. Strings Attached was one of the invited performers at the 150 years Treaty of Waitangi Celebrations. We performed Mustava and the Moon in the Waitangi visitors centre at 2.30 and 5 pm. Those were certainly memorable days, with the Bay full of large sailing shops and a large fleet of Wakas. A bit like a time warp of 150 year earlier. 
The same year, the show travelled to a huge Puppet Festival in India.
It was a dream representing New Zealand there. With practitioners from around the world, truly international. Africa and the Americas, Europe and Asia, Australia yes and Aotearoa, New Zealand. The show ranged from the traditional, like the Vietnamese Waterpuppets, to Massimo Schuster from France who presented an avant garde show that incorporated figures created from a Meccano set.

1994 was another exciting year with a festival tour around Europe. Performing YES, a table top production with the main figure digging itself out of a sandhill. The highlight, certainly being part of the main programme in Charleville-Mezieres that year. The show was very well received at each festival. Returning home to Wellington that year with a very different feel of internationality.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

pictures of an exhibition

Looks like a great exhibition at the Orewa Estuary Arts Centre. Speaking for myself, I do enjoy the way they displayed my marionettes.  According to Kim the Director the opening went well and there is a good stream of visitors. They also organised a very nice programme alongside.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Marionette Gallery 13 - Three Beggars -

Here they are the three beggars. They were my first experiment with multiple figures on one control. As a solo player you have to experiment with how to get more characters on stage. The problem of course is that there is not a lot of individual movement. Its more of a group entrance and action. This is, to judge by the audience reaction, very comical indeed. Though timing is crucial and overdoing it kills the whole thing. The three participated in some Till Eulenspiegel plays and Fastnachtsspiele. Yes it looks a bit Middle Ages and right you are! The other innovation I tried was loose fingers. Two of the figures have their fingers tied to a base which created noise, with the wood clunking together, as well as additional movement.
There are a few multiple figures in my creations, culminating in the seven dwarfs from the famous fairytale. More about that another time. For my current project of Beauty and the beast there will also be a set of twins on one control with better movement and graze I hope.

Cheers and keep on reading and exploring this little blog.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

touring diary 6

Whakamaru, Pataruru, Whakatane, Rotorua, Ngaruwwahia, Te Aroha, Te Puke, Whenuakite, Tairua and the list can go on. Small towns in New Zealand visited on this tour in the Waikato, the Coromandel and the Bay of Plenty. To most people even here in New Zealand they do not ring a bell. Heartland stuff that might not be part of the picture when you have your daily existence in the big cities like Wellington, Christchurch or Auckland. Certainly a quieter lifestyle with community focus. Yes another lovely tour that is part of me covering the country from Bluff to Kaitaia. Immensely enjoyable and it showed me again what an absolutely  brilliantly beautiful place this country of ours is. Apart from work in the Wellington region there is only the very north, Auckland and beyond, that will be covered at the end of November beginning of December. Very much looking forward to it.
For my overseas readers, no this images is not photo-shopped. Taken from the top of Paku hill looking towards inland Coromandel.
The children from Tairua School getting ready to enter the Tairua community hall for the show. Next to the water a magical spot. Tairua school is one of those schools that are build right by the water. Children have sailing and surfing as part of their sport activities. And when the Orcas come into the bay, school stops and they all have a look I was told. Special day and from here it was back to Wellington. There the trees were forming the spring buds and arriving in Wellington after eight hours of driving, winter was very much still present.
Last touring diary for a while enjoy my blog and looking forward to hearing from you.