The Puppet Theatre Barge has been described as “one of London’s more elusive treasures”. From May 24th – July 13th, audiences will be able to see their new production, Joey’s Circus Comes to Town.
Can you tell us about your new show, Joey’s Circus Comes to Town?
Following a successful production of Millenium Mischief, we commissioned a second production from the writer Glyn Edwards, a Punch expert and writer, who then wrote Joey’s Circus Comes to Town.
How long does it take to put a show like this together? Can you describe the process/
Making a marionette show takes anything from 4 to 18 months depending on the complexity of the show. Each puppet is carved in wood and it takes about 2 weeks to make. The soundtrack is created using specially composed music and experienced professional actors. The show is then rehearsed in detail before being presented with sophisticated lighting.
The Puppet Theatre Barge is a marionette theatre – can you explain what that means, and why you use this form of puppetry?
An English marionette is a puppet worked by strings from above (while the French word “marionette” is used for all types of puppets).
The Puppet Theatre Barge specialises in a rare form of puppetry which uses long string marionettes, meaning that the puppeteers are out of view. By using long string marionettes, a world with no visible human presence is created and the audience’s imagination is captured and stimulated by the puppets – which become the main focus of the show. This form of staging allows us a sense of perspective and depth through the use of sophisticated lighting and scenery.
I understand that Punch was originally a string puppet, and this show takes him back to these 300-year-old roots with the help of a Punch Professor, Glyn Edwards. Are you often trying to blend the historical with the modern-day in your productions, and is this tricky?
What is traditional in our work is the technique, the marionette, but we are constantly making, writing and devising new puppet shows, making use of modern materials and new technology as required.
How did the idea for a Puppet Theatre Barge come about? What makes a boat a particularly good venue for a theatre?
After four years of touring, we decided that we needed a venue to present our work. It was less costly to invest into a boat compared to a building in land. The boat is a particularly good venue for a theatre as it helps in creating a unique atmosphere that allows audiences to immerse themselves int the world of puppetry.
What are the things that have to be done differently in a theatre barge than a theatre building?
For a start, the barge travels and performances can be presented in different locations (we operate in Little Venice and richmond upon Thames). On the river, we need to be aware of tide times for instance (the water at some times during the day can be too high for audiences to get on board). There are practical duties that need doing, such as filling up the water tank, the diesel for the heating, traveling and running power via the generator if there is a problem with the mains, etc. Also the barge must be maintained to a high standard constantly, to comply with all health and safety regulations required, as it is still a theatre, although on the water.
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