Monday, 23 December 2013

Figuren Theatre Company - First Showing

Over the last few months I've been exploring puppetry.

I've been amazingly fortunate to have met Howard Gayton (see some of his mask theatre work here, and a graphic novel project here) who has been sharing some of his theatre and puppet skills with me and Rima and Andy.

It has been wonderfully challenging and engaging to be studying a performance art form again, especially one which combines so many of my favourite things!
There is the craft of making puppets themselves (something I've been dabbling with for a while now) which I am deeply excited about and hope to to learn more of in the future. There is the precision and awareness of a movement practise which requires one pay so much attention to the way things move. There is the magic of theatre which brings the inanimate to life.

So, art, movement, magic - what more could one want?

After some initial workshops with Howard, we set to devising a little showing. The show we have come up with is called 'How the Hoggler got it's name'.
It, and the Hoggler, had their first outing a few days ago in five performances given to invited friends.

I surprised myself by really enjoying being 'on stage' again.
Being on stage with/for a puppet is very different from what I learnt about performing aerial. The most obvious difference of note is that in some ways the puppeteer is not performing to the audience at all. The aim, as I have begun to understand it, is to serve the puppet. All intention, energy and presence needs to flow through the puppeteer into the puppet. In a sense, the puppeteer is invisible on stage, even when very visible, as we most often were.

In some ways this direction of presence away from the self, reminds me of the way I sometimes engaged with aerial work. My mind often focused on the beauty and power of the visual imagery that could be achieved through aerial work. Because of this, I felt that I could sometimes vanish into the movement in a "Hey, don't look at me, look at my body in the air," kind of way.
This visible vanishing was often where I felt most comfortable, but was possibly not what is usually required of a moving body on stage...It does however appear to be vital to the puppeteer. Hopefully this bodes well!

All I know for sure is that there is a whole world of craft and magic to be learnt in this area. And I'm very grateful to have been granted a small first step into it.

Here are some photos of our showing.
Big thanks to Terri Windling (an amazing, amazing artist and author if you don't know her work) for the photos (close ups of props and gloves by Rima).
Rima Staines made the gorgeous props and the lovely Hoggler.
Andy Letcher (author, musician and my own dear husband) provided beautiful music and storytelling. We all devised choreography and the story itself.
Howard provided direction, training, studio space and genius :)


The Hoggler wakes up




The Hoggler climbs the World Tree













The Hoggler dances

5 comments:

  1. Looks like pure magic. Wonderful.

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  2. How wonderful, I love the way you are both present and absent in puppetry. It looks superb.

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  3. Aw, how wonderful. Oxford misses you two. Thanks for continuing to entrall us from afar!

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  4. I am so glad to find your blog and your post about your first showings of The Hoggler. First discovered on Terri Windling's blog, your puppet magic and process enthralled me and inspired me to do something similar with my Medicine Stories ... the inspiration feeds the 'medicine' in the stories now. And just wish to send you a warm and grateful THANK YOU from the Salish Sea in the Pacific Northwest.

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