Saturday, 14 March 2009

Norwich Puppet Theatre

I've just visited one of my favourite venues, Norwich Puppet Theatre, to play for Indefinite Articles' Pinocchio. Steve Tiplady is a fine performer whom I've worked with many times. His shows always give the impression of barely managed chaos, Pinocchio being no exception, and this alarmed me at first. Now I realise that it's just his way and he can bring the audience back in the blink of an eye.

For this show I play as the audience enters the auditorium and is seated. This can take ten minutes or so. I used to use soprano or alto saxophone for this but now I favour the clarinet. It can cut through a din if it needs to but can also play right on the edge of audibility. This is a great opportunity to play whatever I'm feeling; whatever the space suggests. For young children I usually start of in a major pentatonic - calm and unthreatening - but by the end I might be running through a klezmer tune or two. The show itself also features Tibetan temple bells and, for the first time today, a rather strange instrument that I used to use when touring with Baobab Theatre. Always a favourite with children it's very good for making the sound of frogs, crickets and squeaky doors. However, if you hold the stick and twirl the little drum (really just an amplifier) on the end of the length of fishing line it roars like a hurricane or strange beast. I wish I could remember its name.
The wonderful thing about the Norwich Puppet Theatre is that it also acts as a puppet museum with puppets from the last thirty years of shows displayed and hung from every available piece of wall. A truly magical place to visit, although the thought of staying in there on my own for a night gives me the shivers. It is hired for seances from time to time, if that's the right word, and is popular with ghost hunters too. Some very brave souls work there.

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