Just back from a weekend in London. So there was Su performing her delicate and enthralling story about a nervous umbrella lady, in the focused atmosphere of the Little Angel theatre in Islington, while I knocked wooden-headed dolls together in the noisy churchyard in Covent Garden, at the 350th birthday of Mr Punch.
Two ends of the puppet spectrum in lots of ways for us. There’s the difference in form, where one is a busking act, designed to create a crowd from nothing, and end by passing the hat around, while the other is advertised, has people look at a brochure to decide whether to come, and then phone to reserve tickets and pay to buy them. One is comedic and ephemeral,and the other is emotionally affecting and dramatic. And in the case of Punch, it was for me a return to something I used to do years ago, and one I had made much effort to abandon. For Su, her solo show is one that stretches her talents, and combines her music, illustration and storytelling in a fairly unique way, the culmination of a creative journey. Although visual, her technique for this show at least, involves minimal, delicate puppetry. The main character lives, but it is brought to life perhaps as a child might play , and the audience certainly care about it’s progress through the story. My Punch show is all puppets, brought to life with vigour, and rough puppetry.
Punch is a limited format, however you look at it.The variations are interesting, reflecting the abilities of the performer, but the expectations of the audience is generally low. The Little Angel theatre is billed as “the home of British puppetry” and so the expectation is high. Two ends of the spectrum.
For most of the time these days we exist more in the middle of the spectrum. I perform my solo show in schools in a form which uses well-designed puppets and a far more subtle technique than the squawking, elemental Punch. And together with Su we perform in theatres with a more lyrical style, though with plenty of humour. And also we have two-person shows which we perform out of doors at festivals, placed on the popular end of the spectrum, with sensibilities drawn from the more artistic end.
I’m not sure if I’m making any particular point here, but I suppose it’s a reflection which we need to make from time to time as we assess where we are and where we want to go with future work. We are in the fortunate position of having a wide palette from which to choose, and sometimes the blank canvas is a little unnerving!! Su’s show is about confidence…maybe little Brolly will guide us in her umbrella boat to our next project.