Kate pic

‘I would drag you to see…’

Kate McBain, Digital Content and Live Arts Strategist, recommends:

Yael Rasooly- Paper Cut – London Premier

This just seems fascinating. The premise of a secretary slowly unraveling into an imaginary world, populated by characters from old movies, and made real through Rasooly’s dance with paper cut-outs and everyday objects – it just seems ingenious. Paper Cut has toured internationally to rave reviews, and it was one of the first shows that caught my attention, and immediately made me rethink what puppetry theatre is and can be.  Visual storytelling and physical theatre at its best. Can’t wait.

Full-length trailer: https://goo.gl/t07DXJ

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Improbable – Animo
Led by Improbable Artistic Directors Lee Simpson & Phelim McDermott; with special guest Mark Down, Artistic Director of Blind Summit.

I’m intrigued by the whole premise of this. Especially since I’ve historically been a little suspicious of improvised theatre and comedy. But Animo is inherently tactile – and we are far more involved than a typical ‘take a random idea from a heckler’ kind of show. Characters are constructed from whatever is lying around – bits of cloth, foam, cardboard – as the 5 improvisers and these new puppets collide. Or not. With no script or pre-set, each ANIMO invents itself as it goes along. And I love the organic-ness of that, as well as the edginess of a story as yet undecided, unfolding around you.

In that sense it’s less contrived, and more honest than standard improv. As Lee Simpson once said in an interview: In flirting with disaster, “you have to humble yourself because you put yourself in a very vulnerable situation with nothing to support you except your own impulses.”

Animo is like a ‘happening’ – a blend of physical performance, immersive theatre, backstage puppetry and contact improvisation but with ‘stuff’! And no-one necessarily knows where the performers will take the audience, or how they’ll contribute to the stories the puppets emerging from it all will choose to tell you!

Definitely one to catch.

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Sandglass Theatre – D Generation: An Exaltation of Larks

This is a really special one actually. Sandglass embody so much of what I’m learning puppetry can and should do – as an artform, a storytelling device and a means of social engagement. D Generation is a full-length theatre piece based on stories written collaboratively by groups of people with late-stage dementia gathered during 20 visits to Pine Heights care facility in Vermont where Sandglass are based.

As a fan of narrative research myself, I’m inspired by seeing how Sandglass have employed the Timeslip method of collective story-telling to work them onto the stage. But irrespective of your penchant for backstage process (!), what emerges is a set of beautifully crafted stories that reveal the humour and playfulness, and dark realities of living with dementia, as well as the challenges and rewards experienced by their carers.

Performed by 3 puppeteers (the caregivers) and 5 puppets (the residents of the nursing centre), set to a compelling original score, D-Generation is touchingly honest and speaks to the truth that all of us may at some point be beset by the vagaries of aging.

I will be taking several people to see this!

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Wattle & Daub – The Depraved Appetite of Tarrare the Freak

This is a story I want to hear. And to see how remarkably Wattle & Daub translate it for the stage. Based on the true story of Tarrare, an 18th C. French revolutionary spy with an insatiable appetite for live cats, amputated limbs and the occasional toddler. The world Wattle & Daub paint is one where, as Exeunt Magazine “the gruesome becomes fascinating, the disgusting becomes acceptable, the foul is humorous and the desperate is mesmerizing.”

Crossing boundaries of genre, style and form – Tarrare demonstrates just how rich and unendingly versatile theatre – with puppetry – can be. Perfectly macabre for Halloween!

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Mirth & Misery – Death Puppet Klezma Jam

This just seems to perfect – putrefied puppets, forced to dance ‘til they drop, to the infectious Balkan sounds of four-piece band Benny and the Cheesegrinder: The conductor, the upper torso of a dinosaur skeleton. Each ‘performer’ has a tale to tell, and is given their moment in the spotlight: a decayed green skeleton twerks to a French bolero; two coffins dance a can-can to Greek tavern music; and flirty bird is demonstrably less than impressive to one of the more unsavoury characters in this cabaret line-up. What is there not to like? 35 minutes of pure theatrical stylishness – where the stage is a dimly lit, folk-jazz cellar-bar for freakishly grotesque muso puppets.

AND – its part of a double-bill with the amazing Flying Dutchman, who present the Fantastical Tale of the Boy on the Run – Not so much Alice in Wonderland, but Boy who falls Down a Sewer, into an adventurous world of fantastic landscapes and intriguing creatures. All from within the pages of a mini pop-up book. Having completely wowed the critics at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, the Double Bill with Klezma jam is outrageously good value and a brilliantly entertaining night out. 

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We Need to Talk About Punch

If you think you know what puppets are all about, and even then, what Punch and Judy are about – this will be an eye-opener. A critical but accessible look at who these instantly recognizable characters are. Can the tale of a bickering couple still have relevance in the modern world? This fascinating session will first present a traditional Punch and Judy show by Rod Burnett; followed by a roundtable discussion featuring leading Punch & Judy performers, researchers and artists, to explore in depth the meaning, purpose, relevance and development of the form.

Co-hosted by Little Angel Theatre and the British Centre of UNIMA (Union Internationale de la Marionnette) an international puppet organisation affiliated to UNESCO. If you would like to find out more about being a member of British UNIMA please visit www.unima.org.uk

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