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.

Day 5 & 6

Phew. Getting busy, and tired today (hmm must have been that late, fun night...)
A summary: Day 5- Professional Development lecture 'To tour or not to tour in France and Europe'. 5 speakers, audience debate/argument, took notes. In essence, it comes down to the challenge of expense versus the creative gains. Same as in Oz. Israel company director said everyone wants to tour to France because there is such an open spirit. Nice.
Shows: 'Retro' cabaret and Shadows from Italy (a bit like my Two Frocks show), and 'Puppets looking for Manipulators' also from Italy, with some lovely double person rod manipulations and dancing. Late show at the Institute of Marionettes set inside the building's windows with large muppet-like puppets- fabulous! And the audience was led there through the streets by a giant articulated hand (see obvious pic).

Day 6- Lunch at Spare Parts Puppet Theatre's Karen Hethey's billet on the terrace- very nice (see ivy house pic). Then cycled 20 mins across town to a Belgium production, in a theatre opposite the housing tower blocks- talk about a contrast! Fantastic show of rod puppets in a surreal dreamscape with a naked male puppet having a difficult time making sense of it all, being hounded by a yellow rubber duck. It was really good- sharp, absurd, very well manipulated, no text only sounds. Best thing: the framed stage contracted and expanded to create differently-sized views of the playboard.

Then I saw 3 more shows and a workshop, but I am honestly too tired to do them justice now. So will post again tomorrow, with more pics of course z z z z z z z z Z Z Z Z

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Day 4

What a productive day after the lazy one yesterday. Out to supermarket and back to buy brekky supplies, then into town, but stopping to take photos whenever I felt inspired. Saw a marionette exhibition (not really my thing I admit), then bumped into Perth puppeteer Karen Hethey as I sat at the central fountain people-watching. She has just finished 6 shows of 'The Arrival', so now can relax and enjoy the Festival. Then 15mins later I saw the director Philip Mitchell of Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, and he gave me the stats for The Arrival season: 6 shows, 450 seat capacity, all sold out except one. Pretty good hey? Triple encores, and foot stamping even! Karen was too humble to tell me that stuff.

Two shows today: 'Pierre au Bois de Terre' by German 'Helios Theatre'. 2 men, one a musician with a looping trumpet, the other with a huge square of solid earth. It was a delight to watch him flick it across the floor at the audience, then transform it into hills, then an armchair, a pregnant belly, a home and so on. Very charming, aimed at 1 year olds and up, and certainly had the front row of toddlers completely engaged.

Second show was very interesting/challenging: from Quebec, 'Marcelle Hudon'. She started well, with a camera operator offering live feed and interesting angles on a very small rod puppet reading the paper, then being shot. But soon it launched into a series of layered projected images with shadow puppetry and live interactions- lovely tricky stuff, but somehow very confusing. A couple determinedly walked out, clip-clopping down the bank of seats. Others followed slowly. The man behind me began to ask loud questions to those around him as to what was going on. And to tap his foot sharply on my chair leg. Hmmmmm.

Afterwards a few of us tried to dissect the content as we wandered away. A post-modern comment on transexuality? A nightmare? An expression of an experienced state of madness? A woman channelling spiritual messages we are not yet ready to understand? Yes, all this and more! With a free set of steak knives if you order before midnight.

Random photos of architecture and puppetry creativity, starting with my favourite black and white Festival show poster ; just trying to pass on the vibe :o)

Monday, September 21, 2009


My healthy, well-balanced French breakfast. Not.
My charming, quaint, uniquely French hotel. Not.

Day 3

I haven't seen a show here yet at the Municipal Theatre, but it's a stunning venue from the outside. People are continually stopping to stare at the large photo banner, of a figure standing in the middle of the main road to Charleville at night. It is disturbing somehow; I will try to get a better shot.

So Day 3- took it a little easy- I knew the place would be full of weekend tourists, so I only went to town for two evening shows: the 1st 'Fantomas probablement' by 'Tete dans le Sac- Marionettes' from Switzerland (there are 23 group members but only 2 onstage tonight). Cleverly designed and constructed ramshackle set with a variety of small windows/stages in and under it- they changed orientation 5 times, revealing an underground nightclub, and then a large skinny puppet which towered above the stage. It was my favourite so far: well-lit, small audience (approx 150), very clever and varied ugly/caricatured rod puppets, some of which sang and danced. But lots of French text which lost me, and a bit long.

Then a long bike ride to the next venue (some are 30 minutes walk apart), and did I mention the audiences start queueing 45mins before the show opens?? Not like us Aussies! This was 'La Boite', a Taiwan/French co-production between Taiyuan Puppet Theatre and Les Zonzons, performed in/on/and around a 4 metre-high box that could rotate 360 degrees. It combined lots of glove puppet action with projections, some shadows, a traditional Taiwanese band, some French singing, and actors with radio mikes. Shame they forgot to add a sprinkle of something interesting... It was a classic crowd-pleaser spectacle, and got massive applause. Could have been that rowsing French drinking song they kept launching into hey?

I'd like to say I then went to a radical Cabaret Bar and saw renegade puppetry till 2am which took my breath away. But no, I took the sleep option. Told you Day 3 was a bit slack. Will do better tomorrow I promise.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Day 2

I love France! I was born here and lived here till I was 6, so everything makes sense to me here. A lovely gentleman at the next table insisted on taking my photo for me (rather than the end-of-the-arm shot I was trying). So the happy snap of me is after being very resourceful, and buying a 2nd-hand bike from a pawn shop. And they are going to buy it back at the end of my trip too. This came after chatting about the hopeless transport situation to the taxi driver taking me home, and now I'm thinking there is a business to be made hiring bikes to Festival goers everywhere in the world...

The first photo is from the School of Puppetry here, and is a famous moving clock which performs on the hour- it is a giant marionette manipulating little ones. Then we see 9 people crowded around a booth to peep at a minature theatre show, including candle lights on all the tables- the best bit was at the end when the puppeteer tilted a mirror to show us all to ourselves watching the tiny show. The Street theatre comes in all shapes and sizes: a busker using didgeridoo music to reenact caveman discovering fire; 3 weird men making women dance with them, then driving one off in their little car; and a man dancing with a wildly rotating full-size digger to operatic soundtrack.

As you can see from the photo of the main square, people are flocking in for the first weekend of the Festival. The narrow cobbled streets are packed, which could be romantic, but is just annoying. Especially when you have a new red shiny 5-gear mountain bike you want to try out.

Saw two theatre shows: 'Kefar Nahum' by Moussoux Bonte from Belgium- butoh inspired object manipulation and transformation in a light corridor, with live musician punctuating the action. No text, just images; small scenes changing and being thrown off the table to make room for the next one. Loved it's weirdness, and reminded me of the importance of EVERY single movement of fingers and hands.

Then a double-bill of two young companies: from Belgium 'Compagnie Alea', and Israel's 'Yael Rasooly'. Lots of French text, and character work interacting with glove puppets and a cello case. There seemed to be a layer of depth missing for the audience to sink their teeth into, and the fidgeting during the second half seemed to reflect this. Or it could have been the hard seats. Anyway, how lucky am I to be in France seeing shows from around the world!? Then I jumped on my bike and cycled the 15mins home, a happy, tired Festival goer.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


here's another photo of street theatre guys 'L'Excuse' from France- very clever costumes, with fully animated faces

Settling in

So it has been a big first day. Bus timetable- tick. Bus pass- tick. Getting lost on the bus ride home- tick. Feeling fairly panicked- tick. Walking blindly in the direction the bus driver assured me was to my hotel- tick. Having a little rest and gathering my resources- tick. Back out and down to the Festival, meeting 3 Japanese women who speak no French at the bustop, who are staying at my hotel too. Plus a Norweigan who is seeing as many shows as me. There is talk between us of sharing taxis home, as the last bus finishes at 8pm, how ridiculous. Now to the photos (in no particular order): the founder of Charleville in 1600s; a street to the main square with all the world's flags; the main square Place Ducale, around which a lot of the shows happen, plus street theatre everywhere; a 1900 Merry-go-round which is stunning in motion(but he said I was too big for it); and the Tourism Office getting right into the swing of the Marionette atmosphere.

Most cafes and restaurants are offering special 'Festival Menus', and there are stalls selling food and tacky string marionettes around the edge of the Square. I bumped into the Director of the Chuncheon Puppetry Festival (who recognised me first) from touring there with Krinkl in 2006, and a couple of other performers from that time too- it helped me not feel so anonymous. This is one of the first times in years that I have attended a Festival as a 'normal' punter, not priviliged performer. I really missed the support network: being met at the arrival point, the Festival goodie bag, and of course the all-important status-giving identification card around the neck! Sigh. I will just have to deal with it I know. It's just my huge ego.

A further blow to my self-esteem came in the scrabble for show tickets. I could not argue in French when a pushy woman went ahead of me in the long, confusing queue! I should have just let her have it in my best Aussie (well, OK, I did under my breath). I'm glad I'd invested those 6 hours back in Oz reading the Program and ordering my tickets weeks ago- many shows were sold out before the Festival even opened. It took me nearly an hour just to buy 2 more tickets (more suffering of my ego as I accept I have to pay, not just waltz in flashing my Artist's Pass).

And finally, after all this waffle (actually, I must admit to a Crepe with Nutella from a stall which was tres bon), I saw my first show. Doctor Frankenstein, by Theater Taptoe. It was a Flemish/Spanish production, with puppet, shadows, projections, slides, lots of plastic sheets, and rainwater, with French text. It was clever, and well-produced, but a bit confusing and kept me at arm's length somehow. My fellow taxi-riders home from Japan, and a Czech student from Japan also felt the same. But the best bit was standing outside at the end, and hearing my name called from behind: Jenny Pfeiffer! Classic! The Australian UNIMA and puppetry community arm is long and familiar :o)

Friday, September 18, 2009


Good morning from Charleville! I arrived yesterday afternoon after a glorious 24 hours in the beautiful Paris, and here are some pics of my favourite city: the interior of restaurant where I had dinner with my ex-step Mum, a shop named after Krinkl Theatre's yellow puppet who I created a 10min solo with which some of you may have seen; a bike rental stand which are all over the city, you just pick them up and drop them off once you are a member (FABULOUS TRANSPORT IDEA!), and finally the staircase in apartment block we were staying in overnight.

I think I'd better make the pics smaller next time hey??

So now I am in Charleville, in a small ugly hotel room a brisk 45min downhill walk from town centre (why oh why can't it be downhill on the way HOME, when it's late at night and I'm tired...). Today's task is sorting out bus route and times, buying more show tickets, sussing out the Festival generally, and taking more pics for this Blog. I will be back later today :o)