My second share today is a series of videos made for the UK’s National Theatre by Gyre & Gimble, a celebrated puppet company founded in 2014 by Finn Caldwell and Toby Olié, who were associate puppetry directors on the global theatrical hit, War Horse.
In the first video, Olié and Caldwell demonstrate a step-by-step guide for making a brown paper man puppet, which would be an excellent alternative for anyone want to work with Bunraku puppets.
The second video is a master class in bringing oversized puppets to life.
The third and final video focuses on storytelling through puppetry.
If you haven’t seen them, there is a whole series of excellent puppetry videos from The National here, including more from Olié and Caldwell about their show The Elephantom, created for temporary stage at The National.
I have a backlog of bits and pieces I’ve been meaning to share so here goes the first. Veteran theatre maker Peter Brook is still going strong at the age of 91. As the UK’s most influential theatre director of the 20th Century (despite being based in France for many years) Brook’s contribution to theatre is almost unmeasurable. In an article for The Telegraph, Dominic Cavendish comments that detailing his long-lasting contribution [to the stage] is a daunting task. He goes on to say:
In a career that has stretched across an unrivalled seven decades, he has washed up fresh ideas on our shores, and helped sweep away much of our theatre’s conventionality, insularity and clutter. Scores of books have been written about him. But one single phrase goes to the heart of explaining the transformation he has helped to bring about: “the empty space”, the title of the slim volume he produced in 1968 that has remained a manifesto of sorts for successive generations of theatre-makers.
I stumbled across this quite incredible TEDx presentation yesterday and just had to share it. It is given by Adina Tal, founder of the NaLagaat Theatre, based in Tel Aviv, Israel. Clearly an inspirational character, Tal talks about how she came about forming the first blind-deaf theatre company in the world. I urge you to watch it.
To quote directly from their website:
The theater ensembles of Nalaga’at are composed of 18 deaf-blind actors. Some of the actors are completely deaf-blind, some have remants of vision or residual hearing. All actors have personal interpreters of sign language by touch, who accompany them during rehearsals and performances. Most of the actors have “Usher Syndrome” – a genetic syndrome in which the person is born deaf or with hearing impairment, and developes during adolescence to retinitis pigmentosa eye disease, leading to visual impairments and blindness..
Ongoing employment of the actors strengthens their self confidece, improve their interpersonal communication ability, reduce their social isolation and allows meetings with the seeing and hearing audience and with people with the same and different disabilities. Most of the deaf-blind people can communicate only with a person who knows to sign language by touch or to use the “glove” system (every joint on the palm of the hand is a letter in Hebrew that you can type on). Communication between the deaf-blind actors at Nalaga’at has developed in many ways, as every person in the group has different needs and abilities.
Nalaga’at means “Please Touch” in Hebrew and the centre that houses the theatre company, also has a restaurant, The Blackout where diners are served in total darkness by blind waiters and Café Kapish where the serving staff communicate with you in sign language.
In an article for The Guardian, Lyn Gardner says that watching the company is a compelling, idiosyncratic and joyous theatre experience. Entitled Blind Man’s Loaf, Gardner paints a very vivid picture of the whole Nalaga’at experience. Wonderful.
There have been thousands of programmes, documentaries, scholarly articles, performances and events broadcast, written and produced over the last couple of months to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. Looking across the global media, new and old, it seems that in almost every country, English speaking or not, William Shakespeare and his work has been celebrated.
Amongst all of these, the ones that have really caught my attention have been those that have explored the relevancy of the Bard in a modern ever-changing world. In particular, today, I want to share a 2 programme series broadcast by the BBC. In the first episode, presented by Nikki Bedi, Shakespeare In India explores how the cannon remains relevant in the sub-continent. It looks at how much of the work resonates with the politics, culture and social norms of today and how Shakespeare has faired in a post-colonial world. The programme also touches on Parsi Theatre, which was new to me.
The second episode, Shakespeare in South Africa is even more interesting. Presented by writer Nadia Davids, it explores how Shakespeare is being performed as a way of discussing race, violence against women, and the current political crisis around President Zuma. What particularly struck a chord with me however, is the discussion of Shakespeare as part of the debate about decolonising education.