Sorry that it has been a long silence but I've been busy with a number of projects and have just had a very inspiring few days away - I went to Wakefield for a neon-making course.
Years ago, my final degree show piece at Norwich School of Art & Design was a neon and etched steel sculpture and I always thought I would like to follow that up one day with more work in this vein. So when i saw Neon Workshops in Wakefield advertised, I asked for a birthday present and last Friday saw me learning how to design, plan, cut, melt, bend, join and fill tubes of glass, bombard, electrify and wire up the same - all a bit mind-boggling but realising that the real skill is in bending the glass to the required shape.
I also learnt that all components of neon are recyclable and whilst it is relatively expensive to produce as it is nearly always hand-made, it is very cheap to run and will last for up to 50 years without maintenance if you are lucky but in any case 20-30 years. It uses hardly any electricity and is very unlikely to give you a shock so can be used in a wide range of settings. If you are interested have a look at www.neonworkshops.com. Artists Richard Wheater and Julia Bickerstaff run the only such courses in the country. My favourite neon in Norwich is the Maid's Head Hotel signage in Tombland, it's a classic.
Then we spent a day in York followed by a day at Salts Mill, Saltaire, just near Bradford - fantastic - a homage to David Hockney who must be my favourite artist. Lots of books and artefacts too so all in all a very inspiring time. Only a trip to Wakefield Sculpture Park would have topped it off. Still, next time. Meanwhile, back in Norwich...
This review is a bit late because I went to see this show just before I became ill for a week. However, I still think it is worth reviewing so that tells you something. Party Piece is the first away-from-Ipswich outing for the New Wolsey Young Associates and their show. The Young Associates are a bit older and a step up from the Youth Theatre, young men and women who are serious about a career in theatre.
Party Piece was developed as a play for young people that don't think theatre-going is for them. It's a story about 4 young friends, having a party, determined to get off their heads, get laid, and declare their love and loyalty to each other, causing mayhem in the way.
The play is very physical, sometimes narrative, sometimes performance poetry, sometimes dance. Graphic in its delivery, it sets out to shock, to be daring and to impress the young audience at which is is aimed with its outrageous language and actions. I wasn't the target audience and I wasn't shocked of outraged but I could see how some people would be and why young people would like it for that reason.
I admired and enjoyed the execution. Several scenes required extremely well-timed physical sequences in a version of physical theatre which seems to be popular these days. It was great, almost Heath Robinson in structure, and impressive in such young performers.
Each player in turn revealed their inner fears about growing up, or not, finding innovative ways to share their deepest feelings.
Afterwards, the cast and director were happy to talk to the full house of audience. Which was great for people who wanted to know how to get involved - and in a full-house of young people, there were many who asked questions - although I did think that the director could have shut up a bit and let the cast answer for themselves!
All in all, another exciting piece for the Curtain UP festival at The Garage - watch out for more coming up, and think about doing what I did and ask for a Tweet Seat - a ticket in exchange for your Tweet thumbs !
Thursday 7 February as part of manipulate Visual Theatre Festival 2013
This show last night was a real treat. Performer Neville Tranter worked a total of seven puppets who represented Adolf Hitler's last companions in the bunker in the last few days just before he gave up and committed suicide.
The play opens with the large puppets shrouded in muslin, and a conversation between Neville and the puppet that is about to (reluctantly) play Schicklgruber (Hitler). When his moustache is finally attached, the role begins.
The puppets, Hitler, Eva Braun, Goering, Goebbels and his 6 children plus Hitler's dog Blondi were large, and beautifully made, with the most amazing faces, brought to life by their glittering and intense eyes.
The huge and piglike Goering was over 7ft tall and rolled around the stage on casters - revealing the jealously and rivalry between him and the weasly Goebbels.
Eva Braun, keeping a façade of glamour was desperate for love, for fun, for a life outside the bunker. She clamoured for attention from her tired and depressed lover, Hitler, and from Goebbels who she tried to persuade to be a playmate.
As the war raged around them, and the enemy troops edged closer, the emotions of fear, betrayal and failing love in the face of despair were gripping and palpable.
Neville Tranter was a character himself, Herr Linder, the person that everyone depended on without realising how much he was holding them all together, and especially the young Helmut, Goebbels' son who was confused and distressed by the breakdown of the adults around him.
Death, in the form of a comical, bright yellow Grim Reaper, danced around them appearing with grotesque but relentless humour as he took them one by one.
An epic 90 minutes show, the time went quickly, and playing to a full house, demonstrated admirably that puppetry is a powerful medium for telling stories to adults. There's more for adults this weekend at Norwich Puppet Theatre #manipulate Visual Theatre Festival – animated film as well as puppets www.puppettheatre.co.uk
As a trustee of Norwich Puppet Theatre I duly trotted along tonight to the opening of the manipulate visual theatre festival without really looking at the details of the evening's programme. It turned out to be a series of 15 animated short films which were fantastic, I have to say. At one stage I was sitting in the auditorium thinking that it reminded me of being at the Venice Biennale at the screening of The Clock and that if I were there, I would not be feeling disappointed or short-changed - but this was in Norwich, in our own puppet theatre.
15 films in total so it is hard to pick out examples. I particularly enjoyed 'What is animation' by Alex Searle a NUA student, and Pandas - about the sex life of pandas - or what happens when a male panda loses interest in their once-yearly mating session - both amusing but very well drawn.
I also enjoyed Crocodile, a slightly dark and dismal description of two people's lives crossing each other by chance. almost becoming a beautiful relationship but destroyed by the secretly-kept and very hungry crocodile in the female character's bath. Far more complex that I have described but very compelling. But I think the other real stand out was Madame Tutli Putli 2007 stop-motion animated short film by Montreal film-makers Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski. Everyone was intrigued by this film and the way the eyes of the animated characters - which were basically puppets - were so realistic. I just kept remembering how labour-intensive stop-frame animation is. You can have a look at the film here on YouTube. And for light relief the little Log Jam interludes with a bear, a rabbit and a wolf jamming in the forest were very funny. More tomorrow go to www.puppettheatre.co.uk for details.
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Marion Catlin, principal creative consultant for The Shift with extensive experience in cultural development and design for the arts, heritage and culture sectors