Tuesday, 11 May 2010
Norwich Puppet Theatre
One of my favourite places is Norwich Puppet Theatre and I am fortunate in that my work takes me there from time to time. Not so frequently that I ever take it for granted but sufficiently often for me to feel at home. The age of the building alone, some seven hundred years or more, gives it a special atmosphere but the fact that it is a veritable museum of puppets of all kinds makes it a wonderful place to spend some time.
My previous visit was at the end of March as part of Eastern Straynotes when the band was the musical element of a burlesque cabaret evening. The flamboyant, and sometimes bizarre, dress of the patrons vied for attention with the puppets looking down from above. But today it was all about the puppets themselves.
Firstly there was a meeting about the formation of a loose group of artists from different disciplines with an interest in puppets and the venue. This took place in the Octagon, a new extension added to the mediaeval building which echoes the octagonal section of the old church's tower. And the rest of the day was spent working on Garlic Theatre's new show, Little Red Robin Hood.
There are two performance spaces at the theatre. The main auditorium, which comprises the nave of the old church, is steeply raked and seats 185. It is narrow, having been built before our forebears acquired the knack of supporting a wide roof without the it pushing over the supporting walls. The smaller, but much more modern, Octagon Studio is an even more intimate venue with a 50 seat capacity. If I can remember I check out which room the company is using before I go down. The first time I rehearsed there was back in 2002 with Baobab Theatre. It was January, we were working in the unheated main auditorium and I froze. The Octagon is always lovely and warm but, even in July, I always bring along winter woollies if I'm to be in the auditorium. Still, one must occasionally suffer for one's art and it is a small price to pay for working in such a splendid environment.