Snowstorm in a Chinese Teacup

I got the idea from being in the audience for “Slavka’s Snow Show” where a huge auditorium is covered in paper snow. I wondered if I could recreate this in miniature and so now at the beginning of the Winter sequence of “Piggery Jokery”  snow falls, and if my aim is good, it covers Su who is playing music next to the puppet theatre. She gets laugh from a perfectly timed raised eyebrow. The effect is produced by using an aerosol can of water-based stage snow, and it melts away after a minute or two.

photo: Tony Jones

I bought several cans of the stuff, because I keep leaving them behind all over the world. They can’t be flown, you see. I found this out after being interrogated by security in Korea, which is not an experience I’d recommend.  Pressurised cans explode in de-pressurised airline holds don’t they?

 So what I do now is this… I send a can surface-mail three months in advance of a festival booking. Going by sea and land gets around aerosol problem.  And there’s little point in getting into the hassle of posting it back to myself from a foreign post office, so I donate the can to whoever is interested enough to accept it. My generosity knows no bounds. This system has worked well for Canada, and for a festival a year and a half ago in Taipei the capital of Taiwan. We performed again in Taiwan recently, in a different city, quite unconnected with our previous visit. This booking was confirmed at the last minute so no time to send the can in advance. Winter without snow…. climate change is clearly affecting puppet theatre now.

We experimented with paper confetti but it was a poor substitute. The gag isn’t essential, but it was a bit frustrating not to include it. Then I had the blindingly obvious thought that maybe I could track down the can that was already in Taiwan and use that!  Oh the power of Facebook…we found the right person and did our best to explain the situation.  Not very hopeful of the outcome due to translation problems. Indeed the negotiations for the festival were fraught with misunderstandings and changing criteria. We focussed on the large amount of preparation any foreign festival entails, and forgot about the snow.

We arrived in Kaohsiung and went to the theatre complex where we were to perform. What a place! And what a privilege to be performing in a purpose-built museum celebrating the art of the shadow puppet.

Shadow Museum exterior

Shadow Museum interior

We even had the deep delight of watching a performance from the Yung Shing Le troupe who were the real deal – popular folk theatre with dynamically and sensitively operated characters with a genuine connection with their audience.

Just as we were getting adjusted to our new environment, and beginning to think about our own performances we were presented with a parcel containing the fabled snow! All the dots had connected, and now we felt quite confident we could present the complete picture .

Su wove her melodies with the Green Man’s spell and funny shows and happy audiences materialised . We learnt to say “Whopper” in Taiwan dialect, and we taught the audiences those essential English words: “piggywiggy” and “hurdy gurdy.”

200 Taiwanese say "Piggywiggy" !

Time for more cans of snow to be sent on adventures. The mystery is where will the next destination be? Was it Confucius who said “Pigs will fly, but snow will explode”?

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