Monday, 25 June 2012

Puppet On A String

Last night, while the rest of the country was getting pizzas in and beers opened ready to watch a group of men kick a ball around for far too long, T and I went to the theatre. Oh yes, because we're bloody cultured like that. But what made us ditch a Sunday night in for an evening in a theatre on the other side of London? Well ask no more because amongst much inane ramblings, I'll probably eventually get round to answering your question.

So, the play in question? Something Very Far Away at the Unicorn Theatre. Now, I'm sorry to say that this play's run is already over so if you get excited about it then you'll need to cross your eyes, fingers, toes and stitches and hope that it's coming back. And believe me, you'll want to start crossing them almost instantly because it's bloody brilliant. And we very nearly didn't see it. We'd heard word that it was a bit damn good so we looked into going. Our first reaction very much involved several woops, cheers and a few high fives. The play was a mere 35 minutes long and there were still tickets available. I'm very much a fan of short plays as I'm more fidgety than a flea on a hot stove so hearing that a play was just over half an hour long was a bit exciting. However, that excitement was short-lived when we saw the cost of tickets: £15 each. Oh. That's quite a lot. As unreasonable as this may seem, I'm a permanent resident in the 'The Shorter The Play, The Cheaper The Tickets' camp. It's lovely here although we do live in hope of the perfect one minute play that will cost us a single dried broad bean. So, we left it for a while. £30 for two self-employed people is a lot of money and we have a serious cheese and crisps habit to fund.

However, we kept hearing about how good this damn play was. People kept going on about it. I'm sure people deliberately sought us out just to tell us how wonderful it was. So we eventually gave in. And wow I'm glad we did. It's puppetry but on a completely different scale. A small team of incredibly talented puppeteers create a gorgeous little world which is filmed and projected on to a large screen. A guitarist accompanies them as they tell the story of a man who, after the death of his wife, decides to travel further and further into space in an attempt to travel back in time so he can look back down on Earth and see her while she's still alive. And it's beautiful. After about five minutes, I had to get used to the feeling of a wet neck and chest due the sheer amount of tears that were constantly streaming down my face. Add to this the fact that they also play Sigur Ros over some of the more emotional scenes and you have the recipe on how to make a cynical actress into tear-stained wreck.

I've always been a fan of puppetry. Ever since seeing a rather terrifying version of Br'er Rabbit at the age of 5, I've always been in awe of seeeing people manipulate other little people on strings (I think that's why I'm such a fan of the acting industry.) I still get rather horrific flashbacks of the tar baby story but I think that's only testament to just how powerful puppetry can be. Without wanting to sound like a sycophant on speed, puppetry can transport you into a world in a far more imaginative way than actors can. It's powerful stuff and I have the upmost respect for those who are skilled at it. I've done a little bit in my chequered acting past and although I've always enjoyed it, my efforts have not been looked upon favourtably in the past. In an audition a few years ago, I was asked to create a blackbird out of a piece of material and improvise a short, silent scene. I had to sit behind a large box and then work the puppet in front of it which meant that I couldn't really see what I was doing. I was quite pleased with what I thought I was achieving but after about 20 seconds of frowns and squirms from the director, I was asked to stop. Clearly the magic of puppetry ends with me.

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