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Posts tagged ‘puppet shows’

The Magic of Puppets

 

I’m not a great fan of magic; unless we’re talking Dynamo ( now he is just special).

You know what I mean, that flouncy, hand wafting, mis-directional camp affair that passes for performance on the Las Vegas stage. David Blaine used to intrigue me until he locked himself in a cube and went without dinner for a while. That killed it for me.

Most birthday party entertainers do some magic.

I don’t. Why is that?

I’m a terrible liar.

Without wanting to give the game away to those who really and truly believe in magic,  magic is all about lying. It’s about illusion, convincing people that stuff that is impossible is real.

To be a convincing magician, you have to be able to look people in the eye and say ‘That’s magic’, in inimitable Paul Daniels fashion. I’m not capable of that, I’m afraid.

If I did magic, I’d just want to tell children how it is done; that would make me a bit of a killjoy. I’d rather not. I’d rather stick to puppet magic.

I can’t even mislead children when they tell me that the puppets I use aren’t real. I agree, well, in a manner of speaking. I tell them that the puppet is real,  but that the animal /character isn’t real. After all, it would be really scary if the monkey puppet I was using was a real monkey, and a talking one at that. Now that would really freak me out, let alone a bunch of children. That honest explanation seems to put children at ease, especially when I explain that the puppet has to borrow my voice to speak. I’m  not a ventriloquist, nor do I try to be. I don’t find it necessary. For me the magical aspect of puppetry is that the puppeteer brings the puppet to life through belief. If the puppeteer believes in the puppet, the puppet will animate and be believable as a character in it’s own right.

As a child, my first experience of puppets was Mr Punch on the seafront at Skegness Beach.

Watching Mr Punch , age 5

Mr Punch in turn thrilled and repelled me. I couldn’t understand his squeaky raspy voice or why he was hitting Judy with his slapstick but I didn’t really care. What I saw was strange and fascinating and other-wordly. I was hooked.

Off to the beach with mummy.

Shari Lewis‘s Lamb Chop, the gorgeous sock puppet won my heart on our black and white television. Then with the advent of colour television came Basil Brush.

Basil Brush

Image via Wikipedia

He was real to me then and still is now. I cannot imagine Basil the lovely English gentleman fox with his distinguishing laugh      ( Ha ha ha ha ha ..BOOM BOOM!)

having a person attached to him. To my child’s eyes he wasn’t a puppet, he was just Basil : the fox that spoke. There was no other explanation needed.

Then along came Thunderbirds.

That show messed with my head.

Those puppets looked so real to me . I remember having a real problem working out whether they were real ( as in real actors) or not. I saw the awkward walk ( beautifully lampooned in Team America) and doubted my convictions , then they would put in a close up of a real hand operating machinery and I would be back to my original idea that they were indeed real people. So confusing.

I see this interesting quandary echoed on my children clients faces every time I enter into the magic of puppets. I can see their eyes questioning how real the puppets are every time they engage and invest in the puppet’s personality. When it all gets to much for them then they ask the question if they are real.

My answer satisfies them enough for them to still talk to the puppet once it is off my hand and back in the suitcase, shouting their goodbyes at the empty shell of the puppet.

Now that’s  the sort of magic I love.

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Getting back to the business of entertaining

Lion - Louisville Zoo

Image via Wikipedia

Summertime is almost over and it’s time for me to put my children’s entertainer hat back on.

It’s been lovely to have a break and concentrate on other aspects of myself for a while, but to be honest I’m itching to get back to what I love best: entertaining London’s children.

The telephone has started to ring again and bookings are coming in. Birthday parties are back on the agenda and I’m gearing up by making a few new puppets and working on some new stories.

Tomorrow I’m tootling off to one of my favourite schools where I have been made part of the ‘family’ so it seems. I’ve been booked to work at their holiday club and tell some stories with puppet illustration. I’ve done a few in the last few weeks, Thumbelina, Space Mouse

and now I’m looking forward to telling tales from the Jungle.

The jungle forms a large part of childhood mythology, and whilst I’m happy to declare the lion the King of the Jungle, I also like to point out the inaccuracy of this statement and do my bit to tell the children real facts about lions as part of the fun entertainment. Mrs Lion does all the work and Mr Lion just lies under a tree all day, that’s why they call him a lion, because he’s always lying about . Well it works better when spoken…

I’ve made a brand new 5 foot long  knitted snake for the occasion and I’m really excited about introducing him to the children. He’s rainbow coloured and drapes really nicely around my neck. Sometimes I forget that the children see my puppets for the first time and whenever I make a new puppet, I share in the children’s excitement when they are first introduced to  them.

Meet Hissy the Snake

So Mr Snake will join Mr Elephant, Mr Lion and Mr Giraffe , Jaffa the monkey and wee Ms Mouse in my Jungle tales tomorrow.

I like to sniff you to see if you've washed your clothes!

Walking in the Jungle with a beat in your feet, tell me an animal that you’d like to meet.

I’m a lucky woman. I look forward to going back to work.

‘St’ Diane and the Dragon

In honour of St Georges Day, here is Diane and her Dragon. She is a fierce but peaceful Pearl Dragon who lives on the dark side of the moon. She keeps watch over precious things and keeps the peace. She breathes fire when provoked.

Diane loves telling stories in her puppet shows especially at birthday parties. This dragon is the one of the beautiful hand made puppets Diane made for the story The Pearl Dragon and the Little Bird that couldn’t fly. To find out more about this show and Diane’s puppet shows for birthday parties click on this link.

Disclaimer, obviously Diane is not a real saint.

Imagination: Children’s gift to our mundane world.

The more I work as a children’s entertainer doing puppet shows for London’s kids birthdays, the more I am entranced and inspired by the breadth and scope of children’s imagination.

My most memorable moment was a comment I received when a child was staring intently at me at a party.

Before I continue, let me explain, when I turn up for birthday parties, I’m not dressed in regular clothes but in clothes that are designed to appeal children: bright colours, sparkles, texture, shine and sometimes even bells for an audio element.

This is my look: In my hair I tie in a myriad of ribbons of every single colour of the rainbow, some fluorescent and some metallic. Sometimes children ask me if my hair is real, that should give you an indication of how many ribbons I have tied. I tie in a bell or two so my head jingles when I nod it.

I wear a sequined top ( gold or bright pink) and a purple cardigan ( or cyan blue with pink sequins sewn on) .

I wear  a purple skirt with colourful teardrops or leaves hanging off of it, interspersed with strands of ribbon of all hues. A purple rose hitches the skirt up on one side. Depending on my mood I may also wear a frilly purple and sparkly bustle complete with more bells.

On my legs, rainbow striped socks or purple tights. I don’t wear clown make-up. I don’t consider myself a clown but a ‘puppet lady’. I’m aware that my job relies on children being able to make a rapid character assessment of me to allow the trust that is so important with any work with children. I only usually have about half an hour maximum for this to happen so I avoid any possible pitfalls, like heavy make-up  face paint.

So apart from my face, you might say when I’m at work, I  look a little unusual.

So back to this young fellow staring intently at me. He stared for quite a while, perhaps even a full five minutes before saying:

” I know what you look like” …

I held my breath. It was normal to be called a silly lady, a clown, funny lady, etc, so I wondered what version of insult was coming next. Ah .. me of little faith!

“You look like a melted rainbow!”

My heart melted. This was pure  gold. Poetry at it’s finest. And from the mouth of a young child, no older than 5 years of age.

So when children ask me what I am dressed as, I always say: I’m a melted rainbow.

Don’t you just love them?

Children: so inspiring.

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