1 Mar 2015

Beyond Punch and Judy

From Spectrum, 12:10 pm on 1 March 2015

It's all carefully rehearsed activity behind the screen.

An evil crocodile on a bicycle moves across the screen towards an innocent  duck, all watched by a hovering bird. The translucent images are manipulated behind the semi-opaque cotton-sheet screen by three puppeteers.

Spectrum's Jack Perkins is watching a rehearsal by Little Dog Barking Theatre, directed by Peter Wilson. Peter and his puppeteers create endearing tales for children using traditional Chinese puppetry and clever props.

On the other side of the screen, this is what the children see.

The team is rehearsing ‘Guji Guji’ by acclaimed Chinese author Chi-Yuan Chen. Thorough rehearsal is essential because the puppeteers have to co-ordinate their movements carefully behind the bed sheet-sized screen as well as providing voices for the characters.

Puppets pan
Running repairs on a puppet by fix-it and props man Jason Longststaff. A colourful crocodile.

'You have to grow into your character, when you first start rehearsing you're unsure what voice you'll use but later you get to know your character and you settle on a voice'. So say all the puppeteers.

The team take a break: Peter Wilson, Shona McKee McNeil, Kerry King, Rachel Baker and Jason Longstaff.

‘Guji Guji’ is a charming nature versus nurture tale which feeds the imaginations of children and demonstrates how traditional Chinese puppetry goes far beyond the rather crude ‘knock em’ down, drag em’ out’ of English Punch and Judy shows.