Crow witnesses God’s creation in the Garden of Eden and adds his own dry trickery to the events. Droll, lonely, adaptable, laughing, watching, instinctive and curious, Crow is in all of us, and in these poems Hughes presents the songs he would sing. – London 2012 Festival
A Bird, A Tree, The Moonis the most recent production by Melbourne visual theatre company Peepshow Inc. The pesky skeleton bird puppet is a lovely! Directed by Melinda Hetzel and performed by Nick Barlow and Angela Orrego, the show played to passers-by outdoors at night in City Square. Alison Croggon has a great review.
The National Theatre and Global Creatures are seeking performers /puppeteers for its upcoming production of War Horse, which will open at the Arts Centre in Melbourne, January 2013. Their casting brief (pdf) gives details and who to contact if you are interested.
Since then War Horse has been much celebrated, and has played to increasing audiences, moving from the National Theatre to the West End, and then to Broadway. Most recently it has been staged in Toronto, and, excitingly, it will be in Melbourne’s Arts Centre in December this year.
I think the TED talk above is the best demonstration of the puppets I’ve seen outside the theatre. Despite their impressionistic construction with movement, breath and emotional gestures they become breathtakingly alive. (Eric Hart linked to this great infographic by Trish McAlaster on how the puppets work.)
The horse puppets get most of the interest, which is natural, but there’s also a lovely puppet goose, and an enormous tank that comes on stage, rolling up over a barricade, and rearing over the audience. I really don’t know how they did that! And I also enjoyed the music and loved the minimalist set, essentially a suggested torn piece of paper above the back of the stage, on which simple animations were projected from time to time.
The attitude towards war in the play is unusual, slipping past taking sides, who is in the right or wrong and strategy, and emphasising rather how the horses’ fates are completely subject to the capricious needs and circumstances of humans.
By now War Horse has been made into the inevitable Spielberg movie, which I somehow don’t feel any particular need to see. (For fun take a look at Lisa Hanawalt’s illustrated review). I’m inclined to think that I would agree with Emily Landau’s article Why war Horse’s puppets win by flaunting their artificiality. Apparently an animatronic horse was used for a few seconds for humane reasons in one scene in the movie. I caught a glimpse of this on YouTube a few weeks ago but the video has since been withdrawn.
I’ve been entranced by Royal de Luxe‘s and La Machine‘s huge mechanical elephants, but this evening I came across Israeli Amit Drori‘s enchanting small mechanical elephants, made for his show Savanna. The elephants are computerised robots with complex mechanisms and live motion control. As well as the birds and turtle in this video, in another is a beautiful buck.
Melbourne’s Creature Technology Company, which had worldwide success with their live arena show Walking with Dinosaurs Live, have just launched their new venture How to Train Your Dragon Live at a Dreamworks and Global Creatures media event showing off an awesome 4 metre tall fire-breathing animatronic dragon, the Deadly Nadder. Apparently it’s one of 24 dragons!
I’m happy to see that this new production has an emphasis on story and emotional engagement in addition to the sheer spectacle, since my one reservation about Walking with Dinosaurs Live was the lack of emotional content.
This is the trailer for The Narrative of Victor Karloch, a travelling gothic horror stage show created by Kevin McTurk and ‘presented in the style of an eerie Victorian triptych puppet theatre’. The puppets looks great, an interesting mix of 75cm tall rod puppets, shadow puppetry and elements of bunraku.
(via Laughing Squid)
Handspring Puppet Company‘s new production Or you could kiss me at London’s National Theatre is about two men who have been lifelong partners, coming to the end of their lives. The puppets look amazing! Don’t miss the great sketchbook by the designer and maker, Adrian Kohler, as well as two short videos, Choreographing Breath and Choreographing Thought which show some of the process of bringing the puppets to life. And some extra links:
Earlier this year I made the set and props for Flotsam and Jetsam, a production for children which tells stories about living on Australian lighthouse islands in the past. The script was written by Greg Lissaman, from recollections gathered by Chrissie Shaw, the actor. Catherine Roach is the director.
The set is an island, panels painted in a pointalist style, which can concertina into different shapes and be dismantle for touring. The lighthouse is modelled on the historic lighthouse at Cape Otway in Victoria, and Tasman Island in Tasmania was among other sources of stories and images, such as the flying fox access to the island. There were numerous props – seaweed, wooden chests, a porcelain doll, an albatross, and a sea buoy. There are more photos of these in my Flotsam and Jetsam photoset.
Touring dates and booking details for Flotsam and Jetsam are listed at Chrissie’s site. On 19 – 21 August it has a short season at the Maritime Museum in Sydney, and then it will tour coastal community venues in NSW. Chrissie also performs The Keeper, an adult play also based on lighthouse stories.