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 →
Our Seagulls are now flying north to Denmark for Aarhus Festival. Farewell and safe travels!
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 →
Skully is on tour in Japan. The Snuffs are running People‘s Puppet Project workshops with residents of Echigo-Tsumari.
We are now offering Snuff Skool performance workshops! A two-day intensive workshop to learn how to be a Snuff Performer.
The Seagulls have got plenty of puppet friends who’d love to hitch a lift to Europe so please contact us if you’ve got another gig in Europe in September.
Our Human Body Parts will be appearing this week at the Esplanade presents: Flipside Festival in Singapore. Continue Reading →
Big shout out to our performers in the Human Body Parts in Singapore: Daniele Poidomani, Stéphane Hisler, Nick Wilson and Zita Whalley. Continue Reading →