The weekend before last I had the lovely experience of attending Skipton Puppet Festival as a visitor rather than a performer. As I had performed at the previous 2 Skipton Puppet Festivals Liz Lempen thought (quite rightly) that it was time to give some other people a go.
I also attended the Puppeteers UK AGM at the Town Hall on the Friday. If you are not aware of this wonderful group, it is a collection of different puppetry groups such as BrUNIMA, B.P.M.T.G. Punch & Judy Fellowship etc. and has various useful benefits such as a directory of members and an extremely useful weekly newsletter which pools up to the minute puppetry info. in one place. Members even flag up job opportunities to each other as well as being an opportunity to advertise performances that you are doing currently. I have found it very useful indeed becoming a member and would recommend it to anyone.
I got the opportunity to finally meet the editor of the newsletter Peter Macdonald with whom I have had many email discussions over the 2 years I’ve been a member. I also got to put a face to the name of Pauline Venables a lady from Doncaster who is very active in the toy theatre scene.
Tim and I saw two excellent shows “Via Via” by a Dutch gentleman and “Do Fish Drink Tea?” by Garlic Theatre.
“Via Via” was very excellent physical theatre and clowning combined with very skilful, intelligent and funny puppet manipulation, but not really one for the kids as a lot of the nuances would go over their heads. Though the more obvious slapstick elements would obviously appeal to anyone.
“Do Fish Drink Tea?” was very professional and skilfully performed. I particularly liked the live music and sound effects. It did not have a strong narrative but was very surreal, fun and playful.
I returned on Saturday with some friends and family and made a point of seeing Ronnie Le Drew’s bag show. I had missed this when he did it in the LSP tent 2 years ago and had been very disappointed. I was not disappointed this year. Among a host of charming puppet characters the highlight had to be seeing 2 of the original Sooty and Sweep puppets that Ronnie had inherited from Matthew Corbett. Matthew was the host of the Sooty and Sweep show that I watched as a child.
Other highlights of the day included the Pulcinella show which was a slapstick masterpiece and it was fabulous to see the Italian roots of our British Punch & Judy tradition. The Italian language was no barrier at all to understanding what was going on.
I also finally got to see “Plain Bob” by Noisy Oyster. I have been at numerous puppet festivals where this show was on and didn’t have time to watch because I was performing! It was absolutely charming and I still do not know how Bob managed to move on his own without the puppeteer laying a finger on him while he was sat on his little chair. There was something extremely clever going on there all right!
Below are some videos of the festival that I have found made by Melvyn Rawlinson and Andrew of Puppet Vision fame.