More Toy Theatre Adventures in Vischmarkt!

Hello again.  Back as promised.

To continue where I left off, we did our first performance at 10am at the house of a lovely Dutch couple who had supported the festival since its beginning.  They had a lovely long dining table, perfect for putting lots of puppets out behind the theatre ready for use.  They also had a cat whose name in Dutch meant “crumbs” and I was a bit worried it might decide to have a game with the wires powering our lighting, but it was mainly alarmed and didn’t come near at all most of the time.  Our hosts had also thoughtfully provided Liquorice Allsorts, (or English Drop as they call them) as themed refreshments for the audience.  In addition to this, we were kept well supplied with cups of tea, snacks and other drinks throughout our time there which is always a godsend when you are performing a show somewhere.  Many thanks to them!

We had run through our lines before and during our breakfast and again at the house, and when we came to perform it, this was a big factor in the performance going smoothly.  I always find that it pays to know your lines as well as humanly possible so that your brain is free to focus on moving puppets, changing scenery and thinking what you have to do next.

I half hoped at first that no-one would come to our first performance, in case it was a shambles, but we ended up with around 8 I think, (we had seating for 15 altogether).  I made a brief introduction explaining that it was our first attempt at a Toy Theatre show and to be patient with us.

We performed the first show, we got through it and nothing went disastrously wrong.  At the end we had an enthusiastic round of applause and without pausing for an invitation the audience surged forward in their eagerness to inspect all of the puppets, scenery and backstage paraphenalia.  I was slightly taken aback and took some convincing that everyone loved the show.  Every time I saw Harry Oudekerk after this, he told me that we were a big hit, which was very cheering after all our hard work and anxiety.  He unfortunately was unable to watch it personally.

Things people commented on included; the fact that the performers were on show, rather than hidden behind curtains, as is usual.  People enjoyed being able to see our expressions and the frenetic backstage activity.  People also said, that our voices and characterisation were very good and that the storytelling and emotional content were excellent.  A number of people complimented us on our comic timing too.  All of our International audience members said that they heard and understood every word we spoke, despite it being in English.  As I had hoped, however, people did remark that they could have understood the story from the visuals and the music, even if they hadn’t understood the words.  I imagine it helped that Hansel & Gretel is a well known story anyway.

On the technical side, lots of people were very interested in our lighting.  We originally got the idea for the LED lighting rig from Harry Oudekerk, but no one else performing at the festival had one like it.  People also asked Tim about how he was using his phone to control the music cues.

Peculiarly, people were particularly struck by our top down puppet controls.  These were on the double sided puppets that i wanted to turn around.  I was under the impression that this was a relatively standard toy theatre technique, but it appears I was misled by Hollywood, as the puppets at the end of “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus” were controlled this way.

I also included a scene with shadow puppets and a lot of people commented on this and also our UV painted scary monsters.

Of course there were the real liquorice decorations to consider as well, but I knew that this was something unusual about our show anyway.

We performed the show 4 times over Thursday and Friday and by the last showing, I was entirely happy with our performance.

In between our own performances we got to see a lot of other people’s, including “The Ice Book“.  I was delighted to see this, as I had seen a clip of it on Harry Oudekerk’s Online Magazine and thought it was marvellous.  I had even spoken to someone about it on Twitter and hadn’t realised that they were performing at the festival.  Die hard traditionalists were apparently saying it wasn’t real Paper Theatre, but it was theatre made with paper, to be fair.  For those who haven’t seen it, it has a beautifully cut out pop-up book for the scenery, all done in white paper.  This is back projected with filmed images and computer animation to create the effect of, for example, snow falling, or a person moving from room to room in their house, switching lights on and off.  It also has the advantage of being entirely without words, meaning that people of any language can understand, and that the story is open to interpretation by the audience.

When I told Davy Mcguire, one of “Ice Book”‘s creators that the scene with the boat reminded me of what I consider to be the amazing opening sequence of “In The Night Garden”, he told me he hadn’t seen it as he didn’t watch much television.  Very admirable, but personally I think “In The Night Garden” is a true masterpiece of children’s television and I hope he’ll get the chance to look it up some time.

I cannot praise “Ice Book” enough, it is a testiment to the creativity, skill and hard work of the Mcguires and I think it is beautiful and marvellous in every way.  In a five star rating system, I would give it 5 stars.  If I had any criticism at all, it would only be that they could make the cardboard box they use to mask the excess light from their projector prettier for when they turn the lights on after the show.  Barely a criticism at all really.

In the rest of the festival I saw lots of high quality shows and met huge numbers of lovely people and most importantly had a really fantastic time, but once again, I do not wish to gloss over the other parts of the festival without giving them the attention they deserve, so hopefully tomorrow or as soon as possible after, I will tell you about the rest of my experiences at the Vischmarkt Papierentheater Festival 2011.

Goodbye for now -more very soon


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