Nottingham Puppet Festival
Ay Up Puppets!
Well, wasn't that a wonderful weekend? Puppets, marionettes, automata and shadows took over Nottingham.
I first saw anything about Nottingham Puppet Festival on Twitter when looking something up on a work colleague's leaving doo. Apparently, breaking out in sheer glee is not a normal reaction to such news, but then I've never been considered a particularly normal person. The biggest regret I have is probably only taking a bit of Thursday off to get to Nottingham - I wish I could have seen a couple of the talks earlier in the day - especially the one on Digital Puppetry.
Instead, the first piece I got to see was Cie Akselere's Sleeping Beauty (decision made by the clashing Magic for Socilaism being sold out by the time I got my arse in gear). And what a great way to start the festival! A mixture of autobiography of growing up in Liverpool and a whole host of fairy tales all woven around the story of Sleeping Beauty. A mixture of human acting, shadow puppetry, rod-operated marionettes and "object theatre" formed a wonderful show taking on beauty standards, poverty and coming of age. Really, really good.
Friday was a busy day. It started with a great introduction from Melyn Rawlinson to some of the puppets he has created and collected over fifty years of puppeteering. The afternoon had me visiting the Pop-up village and taking advantage of the quieter day to catch some of the free shows and see some of the large street puppets up close. Thingamajig's Hippochondriac was a joy to behold, Indigo Moon Theatre's Mermerella was a beautiful underwater adaptation of Cinderella focusing on diversity and Ola Muchin's Magic Show (combining magic, mime and puppetry in a hilarious show) were particular highlights.
Friday evening saw another show chosen by the other option (A Heart at Sea) selling out. But The Parachute was not a reluctant second choice. This was an amazing, silent show which had me feeling so full of emotion for a set of ping-pong balls. If you ever get a chance to see this show, I can only say jump to it.
Saturday featured Graere's Iron Man wandering round the town and Pop-up Village. I managed to catch most of The Budapest Marionettes over a couple of shows and that was some brilliant string-puppet vignettes, including the puppeteer as puppet with it's own puppet. The Diabolical Mr Punch was, perhaps, not to my taste (nor aimed at me) despite some amusing jokes - it's a shame because it meant I couldn't also fit in the Thunderbirds Are Go! film and panel. A Writing for Puppetry panel followed which, although I'm not a writer (sadly) or puppeteer (tragically), was interesting (and made me regret not coming to some of the earlier talks mentioned above).
Saturday evening then saw me watching the Arena 30th Anniversary documentary on Whatever Happened to Spitting Image and panel. Now, I'm too young to have seen Spitting Image, but it is something I have been aware of so it was really interesting to see the bits I saw and the discussion about impact and importance of satire generally.
And then, the event which changed this festival from "Oh, that could be fun" to "how can I not go" - The Puppet Cabaret. Three acts plus an innuendo and ridiculousness filled compere act. The show included a mouse circus ("ooooh", "ahhhhh", "wow"), a stripping puppet (which had me cracking up) and, my personal favourite, Count Ocular, a puppet-based close-up magic show.
The final piece I went to was Grandfather's House from the same company who opened my Festival. Aimed at a much younger audience and more of a reminiscence than a narrative it still had some lovely puppetry.
Overall, the weekend was fantastic. So much good stuff showing that puppetry is alive, well and so amazingly creative. So much I didn't get to see as well which I would have liked to have done. I really should congratulate the whole team - especially those who organised the weather.