Jellyfish at Carnival Bentham and Mad Tea Parties in Ormskirk

Hello again to all my lovely readers.  We’ve been very busy recently with various things including rehearsals for “The Tempest” which will be performed in Hereford on Saturday the 23rd July.  And that is my excuse for not doing a blog post before now.

Above are some photos from our recent performances including a parade jellyfish made on an umbrella frame for Carnival Bentham (which had an umbrella theme this year) and our ever popular “Interrupted Wedding” shadow puppet show, which uses an umbrella for a screen was performed by me in Bentham Auction Mart’s Bull Ring.

Below that are a couple of photos from our recent Mad Hatter’s Tea Party walkabout show in Ormskirk with myself as Alice and Tim Austin as the Mad Hatter.  This was for the Chapel Gallery monthly makers market and we went out and about the town centre and as well as our usual entertaining walkabout show told everyone about the Makers’ Market at the Chapel Gallery.  This was full of all sorts of interesting things from lino printing to wood turning to jewellery and glitter tattoos and all being sold by the people who actually made the things (hence makers’ market).

Afterwards we relaxed and had a cup of tea in the gallery cafe which I would highly recommend.  Not only did the tea pots come in a variety of highly coloured hand made tea cosies but the staff were incredibly helpful and friendly.  In most places I have to ask for extra hot water but here I was offered extra hot water and extra tea bags without my having to ask at all!  We only sampled one kind ourselves but there was also a variety of yummy looking cakes to choose from, (we had a coconut slice which was very tasty).

This weekend both Beverley Puppet Festival and Horse + Bamboo are running excellent puppet festivals on so why not check them out?

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Final Filming of Hansel & Gretel Finished at Last!

Due to various other commitments the filming of our Toy Theatre show Hansel & Gretel has been dragging on over quite an extended period of time.

Indeed, this time last year we would have been creating it ready for performance at the Vischmarkt Papierentheater Festival in the Harderwijk, The Netherlands.

There were various technical issues that we encountered in the process of doing the filming that made it quite a lengthy process.

Any of you toy theatre practitioners out there who use LED strip lighting for their shows like we do will know that it can cause the recorded images to flicker and strobe.

The flickering rate of the lights is what allows you to dim and raise the light level.  A low light level is created by a slower flickering rate, which is undetectable to the naked eye and all looks great during a live performance.  In addition, levels of light which are fine for a live audience could often “white out” the colour and detail on figures and scenery, so everything had to be adjusted to appear correct for the filmed version.

Getting the show filmed at all was a real treat for my co-performer and husband Tim and myself, because we had never seen the show from the audience’s point of view before.  It was quite hard from a directing and performing point of view to know what to do and where to position the puppets (I call them toy theatre puppets, other people don’t but that’s their business) on the stage.

When I designed the show I worked up a storyboard, like a cartoon strip, for every scene. This included descriptions of the action, vaguely what characters would say and what sound and lighting effects and music should be where.  Then from that I made a separate breakdown of all of the puppets and scenery that would need making and vaguely what they would look like.  After that Tim wrote the script and I did a rough mock up of all of the puppets and scenery and performed the play in a smaller Toy Theatre.  Then going on to make up the best quality full size scenery and puppets.

So from the beginning, I had a visual idea of how I wanted it to look, but the filming was my first real opportunity to see what it was really like.  I’m glad to say that I am pretty happy with it and the dynamic, exciting script and (if I say so myself) the excellent voice performances project real power and emotion into the real issues that affect Hansel & Gretel, their parents and ourselves today.

What Parents at the moment aren’t worried about how they are going to put bread on the table to support their family?  Who isn’t affected by the gap between the super rich greedy people, (like the witch) and the poor, (Hansel & Gretel’s family)?

But, don’t get the idea that the show is all serious and doom and gloom.  It has funny bits, scary bits and of course, (the bit that everyone loves) the nasty greedy witch gets pushed in the oven and the brave, good children triumph at the end.

To those that say that a story like this is unrealistic wish fulfilment and in the real world bad people go unpunished and prosper in their lives, I say it is a story to aspire to and teaches real values.  Little people, like Hansel & Gretel can make a difference if they try hard and support each other in adversity.  Good people who do nothing allow evil to triumph.

But that’s enough moralising; I was telling you about the filming!

In the end we had to use alternative lighting to what we use in the live show, to eliminate the scenes with the worst strobing.  We used the LED lighting rig where possible and as a result there is a tiny bit of flickering on some of the scenes, but we think it is not so bad as to be a problem.

I’m afraid to say the video will not be ready for a little while yet, as there is still a lot of editing to do and we have lots of other commitments to deal with.  We are working on the automaton horse for the “My Last Carnival” celebration to accompany the visit of “My Last Car” to High Bentham.  We will be working on that tomorrow and I will have more news of how it is going, later in the week.  Tim is coming to dread the phrase, “I’ve had another idea…”.

Also, I have been booked to do not one, but two of my Shadow Puppet Suitcase Shows, (“Jabberwocky!” and “Edward Lear’s Nonsense”) at Beverley Puppet Festival on Sunday the 15th of July.  Please look at the “Where to See Me” page for up to date details of all forthcoming performances and workshops.