Snuff Puppet Shows

Pacific Gods at Federation Square for Light in Winter

This Saturday June 18, the Australia Pacific Arts Network‘s beautiful Pacific Gods will be celebrating the winter solstice along with four brand new puppets for Federation Square’s Light in Winter Festival.

Peau Kula

Limu, the Tongan God of Death is coming. Moana, goddess of the ocean, sends Lofa, the great frigate bird, as a warning. The water rises. Will Limu reign?

A roving puppet performance about global warming presented by Snuff Puppets and Australia Pacific Arts Network at Federation Square.

Light in Winter marks the longest night of the year with a feast of live music, art, performances and food.

Saturday June 18
5pm – 9pm
Federation Square, Melbourne
FREE

Images from The Light in Winter at Federation Square 2015.

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We’re going back to Japan! わーい

We are so excited to release our short film about our PPP residency last year in Japan. This project was a really special collaboration between Snuff Puppets and local residents of Urada, a regional farming community in Japan and we think this film captures it beautifully. Read the full story of our project.

Thanks to Art Setouchi we are heading back to Japan in March to create another new work through our People’s Puppet Project.

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A Note from Nick: Typhoons, Super-Keen Cucumber Wranglers, and a Chanting Circle

Part Three of Nick Wilson‘s Japan diary:

The final stage of our Japan trip was a week-long visit to Honjima Island, to exhibit puppets, meet the community, run some workshops, make some guest appearances on the mainland, and to present a feature performance in the island’s disused Kabuki theatre.

While statistically the communities of Urada and Honjima might look similar in some ways, we all felt a definite shift in the atmosphere on moving from Urada’s endless green mountains and rice-fields to this small-island fishing village on the Seto Inland Sea. During the ferry trip across, Japan’s longest bridge appeared to neither start nor end, but to bypass the island and disappear in ocean mist on its way somewhere else. Parts of the island are quite visibly abandoned, neglected and overgrown: weeds grow through cracked concrete, and the salty air turns metal fixtures into flaky brown rust before their time. Honjima’s population has fallen from 4000 in the 1960’s to 400 today, of which only 20 are school-aged children. It is one of 12 islands that are host to the region’s Setouchi Art Triennale, another ambitious and immense project by Fram Kitagawa to revitalise dwindling regions through the arts.

Our venue was Chito Tse-za, a beachside Kabuki theatre dated to 1862, and barely opened in the last thirty years. A fine example of the smart simplicity of traditional Japanese construction, the front panels slide open to either side of the building, and the waist-high rails fold outward to form an extension of the stage, which the audience views from outside in a public courtyard. We were instantly charmed by its elegant design, skilful construction and dilapidated ambience. It seemed an ideal gateway into that parallel, slightly surreal world that our puppets often inhabit: where the impossible and the dreamlike can invade mundane streets; where the fictional ‘puppet world’ shares an open boundary with the lives of our audience.

Continue Reading →

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A Note From Nick: Once in a Lifetime

Another note from Nick Wilson and the team in Japan:

Wow, what an unbelievable couple of weeks! It’s hard to explain to people who haven’t experienced a People’s Puppet Project what it is that we actually do out here: how much we ask of ourselves and our collaborators, the dense networks of amazing people that form around us, and of course the seemingly miraculous end-product; a world-class giant visual theatre spectacle made from conception to presentation, including puppets, story and soundtrack, by and about a community that has never done or even seen anything like it before. All of this in just ten days.

We arrived in the beautiful, dwindling mountain town of Urada, population 300, with little knowledge about it, and sunk in deep, quickly seeking out a sense of the culture and environment, its quirks and points of difference, the experiences and stories people seem to have in common.

On our first workshop day we met the residents, played some games, had some discussions and decided on which puppet characters to make. Two weeks later they were on stage performing their own fully realised Snuff Puppets show at an international arts festival in the neighbouring village of Matsudai.

That was at Noh Bu Tai theatre last weekend, and it was every bit as powerful, chaotic, ambitious, serene, touching, hilarious and beautiful as we could ever hope a show like this could be. The venue staff were beyond professional, Echigo-Tsumari management, staff and volunteers all went out to get us over the line, and our Urada cast completely blew us away. Surviving a heavy puppet for 45 minutes is a big undertaking even for professional performers, and these guys weren’t just surviving they were excelling. The energy of the crowd was bordering on euphoric. Urada’s elderly rubbed shoulders with Tokyo art crowds and local politicians, getting pushed and ushered around the space together in delighted awe.

The rain held off long enough for us to use the terraced rice-fields across the river, behind the venue, as a multi-levelled natural stage, through which the Kamoshika weaved and the marching band played, looking amazing in their woven rice-straw costumes. Jisa and Basa crossed this idyllic scene by foot and truck, before Magomusume’s big frenzied Tokyo fashion scene entered from behind, circling the audience in promenade style, inviting everybody to dance.

The show featured a boisterous all-singing giant Akashobin, a rural train journey, an eight-metre cucumber being dropped from a great height and paraded overhead, a cheeky cucumber-loving Kappa, his dismemberment by wild animals, his bowl-shaped head spilling out water and irrigating the fields, and some gorgeous sit-down storytelling moments with elderly residents voicing the Grandparent puppets. Continue Reading →

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A Note From Nick, from Urada, Japan

A first dispatch from Nick Wilson at our Australia House Residency for Echigo-Tsumari:

We are now at the half-way mark of our People’s Puppet Project in Urada and our residency at Australia House, Echigo-Tsumari. One week into the workshop and we have the makings of six giant puppets, a wealth of narrative ideas and imagery, a unique and beautiful mix of sounds and musical ideas, and a diverse and talented team of residents who are getting really excited about their performance next week.

Through discussions with the community we decided on six puppet characters to begin work on: Jisa and Basa (Urada grandparents), Magomusume (their granddaughter, a fashionable Tokyo student), a Kamoshka (the amazing-looking Japanese serow), an Akashobin (the iconic Ruddy Kingfisher), and a Kappa (a troublesome mythical water sprite).

We’ve explored the local environment with our imaginations captured by this climate of such extreme seasons, intrigued by the details of small-town culture in an ageing and dwindling population and moved by the warmth and generosity of residents as we dove head-first into folk-tales and old family homes. Some local stories have been put on as annual school plays here since the old folks were students themselves. The Kappa is shadowing us in silence, our sixth member. Continue Reading →

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Skully on tour Echigo-Tsumari

Skully is on tour in Japan. The Snuffs are running People‘s Puppet Project workshops with residents of Echigo-Tsumari.

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