“Town Mouse and Country Mouse” is on the road!
I set out to produce a show which is simple to set up, and gives the impression of simplicity to the audience, but which draws them into a puppet world which holds them for 45 minutes. Audiences numbers are up to 180, so the show had to work visually and audibly for the children sitting at the back.
The journey towards the illusion of simplicity is far from simple though, and ideas,themes,puppets and props have been ruthlessly cut and edited to distill ambitious concepts into a workable form. (N.B: No mice were harmed in this cut-throat process)
The constraints are useful, because they stop my flights of fancy from taking me into self-indulgent arty areas which is a tendency which can yield fruit sometimes, but usually get in the way of what I do best. And what I do best is puppet movement and characterisation within strong situations. It’s taken me 35 years to accept this, and I’m happy to have arrived at this conclusion after many (albeit successful ) attempts to break out of the format which best suits a one-person show. That is, a format that suits this person anyhow!
A candidate for a leading role being gently told she was unsuccessful in her audition.
Cats are difficult! This has been remarked on before by sculptors, and the reason is because their skulls are small and the bulk of what we see is fur. Their profiles are not too good for puppets either! My first attempt (below centre) looks more like an owl
So I tried again, with polystyrene shapes cut and stuck to the shape below. (The whiskey bottle is not integral to the telling of the story by the way…)
As usual with my solo attempts at controlling the whole operation of putting a show together, I fall at the last fence , and Su rides to the rescue to take me to the finishing line. Her colour sense, design and craft ability pull everything together. She adds great suggestions to the drama of the play too.The multi-talented Josh Elwell also gave generously of his time , encouragement and suggestions. Like any creative act, getting the show together has been a bit of a cat and mouse game, running after those elusive moments of inspiration, and pinning them down into something real and usable.
Here’s Su’s finished cat head:
So the show is all together and a joy to perform. It’s quirky, funny and musical. Belly-laughs followed by moments of dramatic tension.
At the time of writing, after half a dozen performances I can honestly say I’ve succeeded in my aim ,which is just as well, because there is an extensive schools touring schedule ahead, and several theatre performances including a week at Polka Childrens’ Theatre in April!
I like glove puppets when they are manipulated well, but over the years I’ve always been disappointed with my own efforts when I’ve watched video recordings. Often what I thought I was doing with little moments of action and reaction, dramatic pauses and so on, didn’t come across as I’d hoped. Although a step or two up from the type of mindless puppetry known in the trade as “dolly-waggling”, I figured that my style was being hampered by the design of the puppet gloves themselves. Even when made to measure, the subtle movements of the fingers often don’t translate through the glove body. So I experimented with using regular cotton gloves and detachable mouse heads, and I liked what I saw. I’m sure I’m not the first to think of the technique ( and don’t say “Fingermouse”….. that was a different method again….!!) and I was probably re-inventing the wheel, but it works for me and the audiences, and it opened up a visual theme of gloves which allowed other characters to be made this way.
I’m considering running a workshop allied to a public performance sometime next year. No date or venue so far…it’s just at the idea stage right now. Any puppeteers or other interested parties please get in touch via the “contact” page of this website.