Amazing Masks

I was in Nanjing recently and was astonished by Bian lian 变脸. The face changing, or “bian lian” in Chinese, is an important aspect of Chinese Sichuan opera. Performers wave their arms and twist their heads, and their painted masks change repeatedly.

I am a great fan of masks in performance, and this is a wonderful clip (courtesy of my colleague John) of some exquisite masks made by Wladysław Teodor Benda who was a Polish-American painter, illustrator, and designer. He was an accomplished mask maker and costume designer. His sculpted, papier-mache face masks were used in plays and dances and often in his own paintings and illustrations. In this film from 1932, he is demonstrating some of his creation

Vietnamese Water Puppets – Nhà hát Múa rối

If you ever find yourself in Hanoi, go see Nhà hát Múa rối Thăng Long. Really interesting, with so much history and a real taste of the performance culture of an incredible people.

There are 3 links below, all useful, but the blog Vietnam, Water and Puppets is an excellent source of information.

And a few videos to put you in the picture

Peter Brook, the acid test

I know of one acid test in the theatre. It is literally an acid test. When a performance is over, what remains? Fun can be forgotten, but powerful emotion also disappears and good arguments lose their thread. When emotion and argument are harnessed to a wish from the audience to see more clearly into itself – then something in the mind burns. The event scorches on to the memory an outline, a taste, a trace, a smell – a picture. It is the play’s central image that remains, its silhouette, and if the elements are highly blended this silhouette will be its meaning, this shape will be the essence of what it has to say. When years later I think of a striking theatrical experience I find a kernel engraved on my memory: two tramps under a tree, an old woman dragging a cart, a sergeant dancing, three people on a sofa in hell – or occasionally a trace deeper than any imagery.

The Prince of Peking Opera – Ghaffar Pourazar

I meet this amazing artist, Ghaffar Pourazar, last year. He is an Iranian born, British raised former computer animator turned master of Beijing Opera. He is the first and only ‘Westerner’ to train in the art and has subsequently created the first bilingual version of the opera, Monkey King, as well as adapting Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Beijing opera stage. The links are various, but the first is to the International Centre for Beijing Opera which Ghaffar founded.

Miwa Matreyek’s Glorious Visions

And another tech meets performance…..

Using animation, projections and her own moving shadow, Miwa Matreyek performs a gorgeous, meditative piece about inner and outer discovery. Take a quiet 10 minutes and dive in. With music from Anna Oxygen, Mirah, Caroline Lufkin and Mileece.

Miwa Matreyek creates performances where real shapes and virtual images trade places, amid layers of animation, video and live bodies

Handspring Puppet Co.: The genius puppetry behind War Horse

“Puppets always have to try to be alive,” says Adrian Kohler of the Handspring Puppet Company, a gloriously ambitious troupe of human and wooden actors. Beginning with the tale of a hyena’s subtle paw, puppeteers Kohler and Basil Jones build to the story of their latest astonishment: the wonderfully life-like Joey, the War Horse, who trots (and gallops) convincingly onto the TED stage.

Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler, of Handspring Puppet Company, bring the emotional complexity of animals to the stage with their life-size puppets. Their latest triumph: “War Horse.”

Anna Deavere Smith: Four American characters

I am a great fan of this actor. You may well recognise her.

Writer and actor Anna Deavere Smith gives life to author Studs Terkel, convict Paulette Jenkins, a Korean shopkeeper and a bull rider, excerpts from her solo show “On the Road: A Search for American Character.”

Anna Deavere Smith’s ground-breaking solo shows blur the lines between theatre and journalism, using text from real-life encounters to create gripping portraits.