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.

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“Catch The Wind” in Morecambe and Catching Puppets at Upfront Theatre

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For those who are not aware of it, I would recommend a visit to Morecambe for the “Catch the Wind” Kite Festival (run by our lovely friends in Morecambe – More Music) which is always a great day out and happens every year.

As you can see from the photos, one of the main features of the festival are the spectacular giant kites on the beach which are like a kind of puppet really.  The giant kites this year included a whale, a diver, some snakes, a gecko and a lion as well as a giant multicoloured windsock.  Morecambe is the perfect place for a festival like this as they can always guarantee plenty of wind for the kites, (though I believe sometimes the wind gets too strong which can cause problems).

We visited on Sunday the 24th and had planned to try and fly our own kite which we made at a kite making workshop at the Looking Well Studios (Pioneer Projects) in Bentham some years ago.  It was a really good design and easy to fly, and I had been meaning to try it out again for some time.  Unfortunately we discovered that the plastic had perished so we had a good time on the beach with Anthony trying out his bucket and spade/rake for the first time instead.

Afterwards we went to the lovely Brucciani’s Ice Cream grade 2 listed ice cream parlour, which opened in 1939 and still has all the original interior art deco decor.  The Brucciani family have been making and selling ice cream in Morecambe for over 100 years, and still run the business today.  As with most Morecambe businesses, the prices are very reasonable and we are very keen to give our custom to independent businesses like this.

The next day, having found out that John Parkinson had put together a puppet display and talk for an open studio event, we decided this was the perfect excuse to have a day out at Upfront Puppet Theatre and Gallery in Unthank, near Penrith.

We’d visited before for the first ever Puppeteers UK meeting when John was still in the process of building the new theatre and more recently to see the circus show using Stan Parker’s marionettes.  The exhibition we were going to see was of John’s own work, spanning his 40 year career.  It included photographs as well as some beautiful puppets.

Unfortunately we missed the talk part (which was on the Friday) and there were no labels on the puppets or photographs so the captions on the photos are my own guesswork.

We were particularly pleased to see John’s “Alice in Wonderland” puppets up close as Alice is one of our particular favourites.  We do, of course, have our own production of “Alice” as well as the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party walkabout show.  CLICK HERE for more info.

While we were there, we discovered that there was also an exhibition of Commedia dell’Arte masks upstairs so we had a look at that as well.

They were the results of a 2 year residency by David Griffiths at a Leeds school who’d asked him to create commedia dell’Arte masks for them.  As well as the wooden forms, which are the base for all of the other masks, he created a set of flat pack cardboard masks which could be used for schools as well as plastic and leather masks (made using a process only 4 people in this country use, according to David).  You can see more photos and info about his exhibition and workshops on his website by clicking HERE

For those who do not know anything about Commedia dell’Arte, it was a form of theatre from Renaissance Italy which involved improvised drama around a set of stock characters or stereotypes each with a distinctive mask, costume and movements, voice and posture.

Mr. Punch is based on the character of Pulcinella and the Harlequinade, which was a feature of early pantomime in this country, was also based on Commedia dell’Arte characters (Arlecchino became Harlequin).

 

John has invited us to come back and see their show of The Pied Piper of Hamelin (first showing July 20th) so we’ll hopefully be attending that and telling you all about it a bit later on.