A great first outing for Festa Italia Lancaster!

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I was invited to provide the family entertainment for a new festival in Lancaster (organised by Lancaster BID) by “The Melodrome Mobile Stage“.  It was an Italian themed festival called “Festa Italia” with food and entertainment in an Italian theme which would also hopefully promote interest in Lancaster’s Italian businesses.

I was invited to perform my two Shadow Puppet Suitcase shows “Edward Lear’s Nonsense” and “Jabberwocky!”, unusually with both shows within each 30 minute set.  I normally stick to one show per set to avoid having to swap 2 sets of puppets over mid-set.

My first set was in Church St. where a lot of the Italian businesses are and I started off with the Edward Lear’s Nonsense (as this has more puppets) and swapped to Jabberwocky afterwards.  This was relatively manageable as even though this show has scenery it only uses 8 puppets and Edward Lear has at least twice as many.  I also had Rough Magic Theatre’s Tim Austin as puppet wrangler (aiding me getting the two sets of puppets swapped around).

It had looked like it could be raining all day when we set out and we were worried no-one would be there but there were plenty of crowds and the occasional showers did not put people off.  We were also fortunate that it was dry at the times we were performing.

We met lots of the other acts in the Green Room in Lancaster Museum including a group promenading in Venetian Carnival inspired costumes:

Our second set at the Melodrome Stage in the Market Square attracted much larger crowds and we, the audiences and the Melodrome Stage were all very pleased.  We were very fortunate that at the time of day we were due to perform at the Market Square the sun was going in the right direction so we did not have to rely on artificial lighting and got really clear shadows.  Normally speaking when we perform this show that is not an issue as we just perform in the right direction for the sun and get the audience to move to the right position, (or perform for people who are already in the right position) but in this case there was already an area for the audience with seating etc. set up for the Melodrome stage so it was convenient things turned out as they did!

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It seemed to be a very successful day all round and there were crowds there for the bands and food etc. long after we had finished at 4.45pm.  This was great as at most festivals I’ve attended people start to head home at around 4.00pm!

We had a great day and were well looked after by the Melodrome team.  It was also a first successful outing for the Shadow Puppet Suitcase shopping trolley!

I had had an idea some time ago to do a new version of the suitcase theatre with a bigger screen and puppets by converting a pram, (you can see the previous post about it HERE).  I had been concerned that it might be too low down and David Goboff suggested I look into shopping trolleys instead.

It occurred to me recently that I needn’t wait to build a whole new theatre on top of the trolley but that I could simply strap my existing theatre to the trolley and be able to use it right away.  Feedback I have had so far suggests that not having the theatre strapped to me makes the shadows clearer as it is not moving around as much.  It is also easier to operate the puppets though slightly more challenging to lower the “curtain”.

I decided to try this set-up now as I am currently expecting another baby (due in February) and so did not want to be strapping the fairly heavy suitcase to me.  I am available for bookings up to the end of this year and from September next year and Rough Magic Theatre’s Tim Austin will also be available for his solo shows: Mad Hatter’s Tea Party walkabout, The Interrupted Wedding shadow puppet show and Jolly Rodger Pirate Parties for summer next year.

Please get in touch if you are wanting shadow puppet workshops in schools this year and family entertainment for Christmas events or Festivals of Light.


Rough Magic Theatre “Lights Up the Streets” of Lancaster

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I had a lovely time performing my two shadow puppet suitcase shows “Jabberwocky!” and “Edward Lear’s Nonsense” at the “Light Up the Streets” event in Lancaster on Friday.

I had created light up hat decorations, (using my new top hat that I bought from a stall at Glastonbury Festival) and a light up buttonhole decoration specially for this event.  It was a bit of a challenge working out how to illuminate my costume for the event.  I couldn’t use anything that would catch on the shoulder and waist straps of the suitcase when I take them on and off and I couldn’t use anything so bright that it would interfere with the lighting for the shadow play by creating multiple shadows.  I think the overall effect, (using a combination of battery operated fibre optics and miniature fairy lights) was very attractive and worked very well.  I did get a number of compliments on my hat 🙂

I did my performances in the area between Lancaster Castle and The Storey Institute.

When it rained (a lot) I retreated inside the Storey and did a few performances in there for the wet and bedraggled audiences who swarmed inside to escape the weather.

I think people appreciated that they weren’t missing out on the entertainment by coming indoors.

Altogether it was a fantastic and friendly atmosphere and the rain did not dampen people’s spirits.

A big thank-you once again to Tim Austin for taking photographs of the show and generally helping out.  And a big thank-you to George Harris and The Duke’s for the use of their lovely dressing room, (quite a treat for a street performer).  And thank-you to all my audiences for turning out in the wet.