Thursday, October 1, 2009

Final Day 10

Even the local church had marionette hands attached to their columns! Some of the food was very naughty (fried donuts with hot Nutella anyone??), and the street theatre continued to delight. The last 2 pics show the final night at L'Annexe (you can just see Joanne Foley and Jenny Ellis foreground), and the all-important signposts for all that really matters in Charleville.

So Day 10 was a big day. I had three professional meetings: one with the Assistant Festival Director re requirements or advice on bringing independent Australian shows such as mine to the next Festival. They haven’t yet decided if it’s going to be in 2 years or 3, and the Director is understandably swamped right now. So for anyone who is interested, don’t apply till Jan 2010, and send DVDs.

Meeting #2 was with independent Israeli artist Yael Rasooly, who brought a 20min show, and was placed into a Double Bill by the Festival. We had a long talk over lunch, and she suggested an Australian Cabaret night, with 3 or 4 shows of 15-20mins. She advised applying to the main ‘In’ Festival, who she played with, but also an alternative production house like L’Annexe, where we hung out the most, with it’s relaxed atmosphere, cheap food, couches, friendly service, and wide variety of shows/vans/performance venues.

So Meeting #3 was with Julie, President of L’Annexe. She explained that they had set up the venue last Festival as an alternative to all the programmed shows, but that now the site was marked for demolition to make a car park. She said they had organised a big meeting to ask for permanent venue status with the local politicians, and the Ministry of Culture (who generously fund a lot of French artists), who had been very impressed with their case. She said they would be very interested in programming Australian performances, wanting to become more international. I offered to write a letter of support for their venue, and she was very keen. Then obviously L'Annexe could write a letter of support for me/us for touring funding applications in Australia...

Then my final 3 shows of 25- what a contrast. 'Traversees' by French company Theatre de l'Entrouvert- my friend who'd seen it already strongly advised me to go. It was quite lovely: ethereal, poetic, sparse yet vivid images, no text, tiny rod puppets, created and performed by a graduate of the Puppetry School. I really really enjoyed it.

Then I saw another rod puppet show which made me feel angry and disappointed. Even when I do a terrible show, I am not as bad as the puppeteer I saw in this one! And he had been invited from Italy; his puppetry manipulation was so poor I couldn't even clap at the end, I just had to leave. What a waste of money, and my time.

Then the big finale: Joan Baixas at the Municipal Theatre. I'd like to say he was incredible, but there was a lot of talking, some fairly poor acting, some interesting live painting onto a dirty sheet of canvas with back projections, and too much poor manipulation of a puppet head. But he IS a legend, having collaborated with Miro and so on, so I was grateful to be able to say 'Yes I've seen him'. He performed in Perth in 2008 at the Puppet Festival there, and I know several people who said it was the most amazing thing they've ever seen. But not this new show, sorry.

I post this now from the UK, and was missing France approximately 5 mins after arriving back in London. I intend to add some Reflections, and some Top Tips as I mentioned, and anything else which comes up. I had a fantastic time of course, and feel stretched, challenged, inspired, affirmed, and lucky to have been immersed in such a fascinating world.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Misc pics

Enjoy the eye candy. A fire-breathing dragon, and a hydraulic shoe exhibition which saw them all dance, move, shuffle, stamp and tap out a symphony.

Did I mention that every second shop window has a puppet display? That's a lot of blank puppets staring at you. But I think the butcher wins the prize for commitment!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Day 8 & 9 activities

Up early to attend a Professional development lecture by the touring Dutch performers: Neville Tranter, Ulrike Quade, and Duda Paiva. It was so great hearing their personal journeys toward puppetry, and they all called their puppets 'the bridge' to communicate with the audience. I took copious notes (it was in glorious English), and asked them each if the challenges of touring affected their artistic choices in terms of set/puppets/costumes. There was a resounding Yes. Then Duda admitted if he was commissioned to direct in a theatre with set designers, he would indulge them and make a big set! He also talked of recently being in Australia, and how everyone told him NOT to use the word 'puppets' to promote his work. In fact, his promo material for his new show 'Morningstar' specifically does not mention puppetry at all, just '... a unique use of foam rubber objects... that affords the performer a flexible extension to his body'.

I am SO going to use that sentence when people ask me what I do.

The 3 of them agreed that good Technique, Discipline, and Curiosity were essential ingredients to make new work, and good puppeteers. Remember that.

I saw Neville's show later that day; I have never seen him perform before, so was very excited. There is no doubting his superb technique and comic timing. Yet it also felt very staged to me; I admit I love the challenge and risk of Improvisation, which is why I love to watch good street performers. But as an actor, Neville was very polished and commanding, yet also served the puppets. Well done. Bit weird with all the fake fur bunny rabbits, but well done.

Saturday Day 9 saw me cycling/walking 20mins upsteephill to re-sell my bike to the pawnshop, then realising I didn't have any ID, so flew downhill in 5, and back up in 12 before the shop shut for lunch. Nearly had a heartattack. But felt it was probably penance for that strong French cheese pizza I'd shared at 1am as previously mentioned...

So then the bus into town, like all the ordinary people. [Yes, I am a transport snob]. A beautiful exhibition of photos of puppet faces projected onto natural forms like trees, water, grass, then photographed again. 3 theatre shows, from Italy, Germany, and Holland, with Duda's the stand out. An audience of approx 450, 5 encores, feet stamping, 'Bravos' being yelled- he was quite touched, and ran off.

I was recognised by a couple who had also performed in Perigueux Mime Festival in 2006, and the man had come out to Perth to UNIMA but we had never crossed paths. By chance I saw them in a cafe; I love that about Festival synchronicity. Also saw Joanne Foley, Jenny Pfeiffer again, and have been hanging with Jenny Ellis from Melbourne, and 'The Arrival' performers from Perth Giri, Sanjiva and Karen. Can't believe I have turned into the cliched Aussie hanging with other Aussies overseas, but yes it seems so!

Now it's 12.30am on the Sunday night/Monday morning; the Festival is over, and I haven't blogged Day 10. But my suitcase has exploded, and I need to pack and sleep. So all my pics and tales will have to wait I'm sorry. It has been incredible of course, and I will do Reflections, and Top Tips for Travellers too (Number 1 is buy a 2nd-hand bike).

So do come back, and I promise it will be good :o)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

More pics Day 8

I post pics of my favourite ever street puppeteer Alex Barti, who I first saw on DVD in the puppet museum in Chuncheon Korea when on tour there with Krinkl Theatre in 2005. A dream come true to see him live! His marionette can raise his eyebrows, wink, frown, scowl, show his fangs, flick his tongue, raise his hair, and most importantly, is so cleverly manipulated 'in the moment', responding to street stimulus and the crowd- it is like watching a master improvisor/clown/puppeteer. I have video footage of him too, but don't think I have enough time to load it sorry. I had to take a photo of the crowd mobbing to give Alex money, he didn't say a word. He has perfected the art of street puppetry.

I think that has been the most important inspiration for me of this trip: seeing artists who are at the height of their puppetry powers, like Alex, Duda, and Frank. Of course, I can be utterly intimidated (the old "I will never be as good" voice), yet I can also be inspired to keep journeying, to keep creating and improving, to just "do my thing" and enjoy this fascinating field of work. Certainly nothing else does it for me like a well-manipulated puppet (apologies to the boyfriend).

There is also the camping ground at sunset, which is the place to stay, and 2 puppets on the opposite scale of technology: I came across a puppet party where everyone was wearing the recycled plastics puppets, and dancing in a frenzy to the live band! Then I went to a theatre show, where the queue was entertained by the animatronic creature you see, who wheeled himself around. It took me so long to work out who was doing it: a nondescript guy with two tiny controls in the palms of his hands.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Day 8

Can't post happily- had to return my wonderful bike this morning. And the Festival finishes in two days. AND I stayed up late with friends, eating strong cheese pizza on the Pirate boat at 1am. SO not a good idea! I have no firing brain cells today. Tomorrow will be better. But rest assured I have been very very busy amongst the fun I promise! More later, and some quick pics to appease the masses... Is anyone actually reading this??

Friday, September 25, 2009

Day 6 & 7

Photos: a lovely courtyard venue which reminded me of performing at Perigueux Mime Festival with my puppet Sunshine in 2006; a stilts/puppet street show; a one-person 'peep' show (very popular); the 'Annexe' venue which is the cool haunt, with cheap food, cheap/weird shows, several workshops, and couches to relax on; and finally an ice cream van.

On Weds Day 6 I saw a show I hated, and wanted to stand up at the end and shout 'where were the puppets!!??' instead of clap. Won't even name it, but was expensively-funded by the French government.

However a workshop by the Theatre of Puppets in Paris cheered me up, exploring moving a variety of puppets without worrying about how they looked- very liberating.

Saw various street shows (the good, the bad, and the amateur), but always the freedom to just walk away...

I went to 2 exhibitions: Edward Gordon Craig (look him up- only responsible for influencing Decroux mime, contemporary set and stage design, and challenging notions of actors as 'uber-puppets' of the director's will); and Jacques Chesnais (who seems to be the French marionette version of our own Richard Bradshaw), touring with his wife and troop through France, Germany, Romania, Turkey, Cameroon and Casablanca 1939-1963 (sorry Richard, I know you're not quite THAT old!

Day 7: Hand/object manipulation workshop with Swiss puppeteer/Festival circuit performer Anita Bertolami. It hurt. Both my hands and brain. Do I really have to do it every day??

However, two experiences of my personal puppetry joy: Frank Soehnle/Figuren Theater Tubingen's show 'salto.lamento', and Duda Paiva's 'Malediction'. Depth of imagery, exquisite manipulation, unexpected humour, dark moods, puppet/puppeteer interaction, and perfect comic timing. Oh to be 100th as good!

Now, I just want to dream of what could be... inspired as I am right now :o)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Day 5 & 6 CONTD pics

Here you go, just a little taste of Chicago's Red Moon's front & backstage set for their fantastic show 'Once upon a time'. Live feed with cameras of small manipulations seems to be the new flavour of the puppetry month, like overhead projectors three years ago.