We’re Back! 2 puppeteers and a baby at Settle Stories

As you know, from my previous post, I have been very busy recently with my pregnancy and then looking after baby Anthony.

Well, Anthony has passed his first birthday and it’s back to work again for me.

Settle Stories (an excellent storytelling festival, local to us) took place just a few days after the end of my maternity leave so we decided to visit the “Artists Hangout” at the Bell tent and catch up with some other artists, and the festival organisers to see if there were opportunities to be involved in the future.

We met some very interesting people – including Hassan El Geretly, (artistic director of El Warsha Theatre Company from Egypt) and a lady called Nicky – a storyteller based in Manchester.  We also met up with a painting teacher, a landscape photographer/artist, some actors and a small number of the actual performers from the festival itself.  These included Darius Nash and Tamar Eluned Williams, who were performing Stories for the Silver Tree.  Darius was also leading a clowning workshop at the festival.  Here is their Youtube video below for this performance:

The festival organisers Sita Brand and Charles Tyrer were also there and spoke about their plans for developing longer term relationships with artists at the festival.  This, they hoped, would allow artists to get to know each other and the people and environment of Settle.

After the meeting, we went into the “Dungeons & Dragons” cafe in the Friends Meeting House which was really wonderful – decorated with cobwebs and a handmade dragon on the wall.  All of the refreshments were themed and the helpers were all in costume.  Not only that but on each table there was a little handmade Dungeons & Dragons game with little tiddly-winks for counters so you could have a game with your refreshments!

Unfortunately, it was a rainy day but this did not seem to put off the dauntless British punters: the cafes and streets were certainly crowded at lunchtime!  After our lunch we decided to have a go (in what time we had left) at the geo-caching story trail.  We successfully found one cache in the vicinity of the Friends Meeting House, (I’m not allowed to say where or it will spoil it for other people) and tried our hardest to find another one somewhere near the old signal box at Settle train station but neither Tim or myself had any luck.

We did find that the Friends of Settle and Carlisle Railway had volunteers showing off the restored old signal box and letting people have a go pulling the levers and making the lights show and the bells sound.  Tim and myself took it in turns to hunt for caches with Anthony at ground level and go up to the signal box.  We even got a commemorative certificate to show we’d had a go at operating the signals!

It would have been nice to have had time to sample more of the shows and workshops but we did have a thoroughly enjoyable and relaxing time while we were there.  I believe the Listening Gallery is a permanent installation so we’ll be able to pop back and visit that on another occasion.

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I’m back doing shadow puppet shows and workshops in primary schools again, now that my maternity leave is over.  These workshops fit with the topics of light and shadow and traditional tales, making them ideal for the primary curriculum. These workshops involve a short show by me (“Jabberwocky“, “Edward Lear’s Nonsense” or “The Interrupted Wedding“) followed by the children making their own puppets and putting on their own shows in groups.  If you would like me to come and work with your school please CONTACT ME for more information and to book 🙂

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We are also available for street theatre walkabouts featuring either of the Shadow Puppet Suitcase shows (“Jabberwocky” & “Edward Lear’s Nonsense“) and the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party walkabout show.

Edward Lear’s Nonsense is the perfect show for food festivals.  The suitcase shows are also perfect for Christmas entertainment or for a festival of light and I have costumes to fit all of these occasions.

Don’t hesitate to contact me to book or for more information.

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We’re producing a new larger-scale shadow puppet show, suitable for large audiences in schools and other indoor venues.  It’s early days for the project but I can reveal that it’s based on the traditional Japanese Fairy Tale “The Magic Ear”.  The show has an environmental theme and can include an accompanying junk percussion workshop.

We’re taking bookings for Autumn this year and 2019.  Email me here if you’d like to know more.  I’ll be blogging about the project in detail soon – keep your eyes peeled!

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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.