Our One-Man Christmas Family Show at The Harlequin Puppet Theatre is certainly attracting the audiences this year, with already one day completely booked out, and we’ve only been open for 4 days. The after-show comments from both adults and children have been exceptionally gratifying.
Actually this is quite short season for we only run until January 5th because that is the last weekend before the children return to school for the start of the new term.
Our next season will be the February Half Term when we are planning to show The Little Ballet of the Handkerchief Princess
The programme will also include a funny play Two Silly Women and a Very Silly King. There will also be Mr Bimbamboozle’s Magic and Chris Somerville’s MARIONETTE CABARET.
It’s getting exciting now, I’ve started with the pre-school nursery shows. This means quite a bit of travelling which I don’t really mind since the rewards are plentiful. The Nurseries are all decorated and festive, the 3 and 4 year olds excited, some a little bewildered, as they file in to either sit in rows on tiny chairs, or sometimes in a semi circle on the floor. They make a lovely audience with a a good sense of fun and a trusting belief in magic. I concentrate on the magic for the very young ones. I do introduce puppets amidst the magic tricks, but rarely do a formal puppet show for the under fives.
Of course with the primary school shows I am catering to bigger audiences (over 400 in some schools) and a wide age range. In these shows I feature Punch & Judy as well as lots of Magic Tricks. These very different shows, but I still enjoy them, especially with my regulars. Some schools have booked me every Christmas for the past 20 years and more.
But between the various school shows I am of course rehearsing for the Christmas Show at the Harlequin which opens on Boxing Day. This year features “Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp”. I haven’t done this production since 2014 so there’s a lot to remember and a lot to rehearse. It’s not only the puppets and their acting but also the scenery and lights. A two minute scene change from the Streets of Old Pekin to An Enchanted Cavern in the Mountains of Arabia is quite a feat for the solo performer and takes quite as much practise as do the actual puppets. The great thing is that it’s still fun. After over 60 years a professional puppeteer and it still excites me. Which is probably for the best because I suspect its too late to get a proper job!
On Saturday at 3pm we have the final show before the majority of children go back to school for the Christmas Term. We’ve been very busy this holiday, but not every day. Wev’e had some bumper days when the theatre has been almost full, but then other days when only a few families arrived for the show. Probably this is partly to do with the fact that we straddle several Welsh counties and several English counties in our catchment area, and their holiday weeks have not coincided at all. Although the October holiday is only a week we opened the theatre for two weeks so as to disappoint as few children as possible. Let’s see what Friday and Saturday bring. This programme has been very well received, and the play, “The Gooseberry Mandarin”, despite a quite challenging vocabulary, has held even the very young in rapt attention. Mr Bimbamboozle’s Magic is always a firm favourite, and the children do so love to point out his mistakes, and act as magician’s assistants. The adults appreciate the skill and humour demonstrated in the Marionette Cabaret. The children enjoy this too, albeit on a different level. Immediately this season is over we will be planning for Christmas. Scenery and puppets will come out of store and there will be strings to repair and much repainting and possible new costumes needed as we get everything ready for our December production of “Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp”, a favourite pantomime story of ours and the basis of this years Christmas Show at the Harlequin Puppet Theatre which runs from BOXING Day until the end of the Christmas Holidays.
Local Schools are on holiday this week, but last week was surprisingly busy with children from English areas where their holiday was a week earlier than most. Many of them were staying with grandparents who bring them to The Harlequin.
Our season carries on, through Halloween, and finishes on Saturday November 3rd. We hope to see many more young friends at our fun-filled family show. In addition to the whimsical puppet play of The Gooseberry Mandarin we also feature Mr Bimbamboozle’s Magic Tricks which would be quite impossible without the enthusiastic help of the Children.
The show always ends with the impressive puppet manipulation featured in Marionette Cabaret.
It is an hour and a half of unique entertainment. You just can’t see a show like this not anymore, not anywhere else in Britain.
Days of summery weather are still with us, but cold days as well. But Autumn is on its way and I’m busy getting ready for my October Half Term Season at the Harlequin. This year I am presenting an unusual story written a long time ago, and set in China. It is a fantastic story about a Willow Tree who falls in love with a Princess and her father, The Mandarin, who won’t allow anything to be planted in his garden except gooseberries, yet he craves a banana, a fruit he has never tasted! It is a story which I tell the children has a Happy-Sad ending, and they seem to know what I mean. It is beautifully written by Grace Dorcas Ruthenburgh and was Eric Bramall’s favourite puppet play. Eric Bramall was the man who built the Harlequin Puppet Theatre and who taught me how to work puppets. He died in 1996, but he will be glad that I am still managing to do this story. When he was alive we had three puppeteers to perform this play, now I have to do it alone.
Hope to see some of you during the holiday, October 22nd to November 3rd.
2018 proved a remarkable summer both for sunshine and for audience numbers at The Harlequin. Rhos-on-Sea’s sandy beach had more families than I’ve seen for several years, and although the sun kept a lot of them on the beach a goodly few came into the shade of the puppet theatre to enjoy our production of “Tales from Alice” being my favourite sequences from Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass.
So a new generation of children met the White Rabbit, the Duchess. the Caterpiller, the Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat and Humpty Dumpty as well as learning about a Victorian little girl, Alice Lidel, who lived locally and for whom the book was written by Lewis Carrol as a birthday present.
Our nexy opening is for the October Half Term (October 22 to November 3) when we will be showing “The Princess and the Gooseberry Mandarin.” This was Eric Bramall’s favourite puppet play, and it his recorded voice playing the part of the Mandarin.
Since this little season spans Halloween we will of course be featuring Mr Scary-Bones the Skeleton in The Marionette Cabaret, the feature which ends every show at the Harlequin.
If there has been a favourite puppet with the children over the years, including both boys and girls and even the young ones, it has to be The Skeleton.
St Bridgets on the Wirral is a very old church, a Primary School and an enthusiastic Community who every year put on a St Bridgets Summer Fair towards the end of June. For the past four or five years that I’ve been attending with my Punch & Judy show the event has been blessed with sunshine. It’s a fairly low key event with perhaps only dozen stalls, a bouncy castle and Punch & Judy, a burger barbeque and a stall offering strawberries and cream.. They have a brass band, handbell ringing demonstrations in the church, and Maypole Dancing by children from the school. It is always well supported and is one I look forward to each year. It has a reassuring timeless feel and is not all that different from the Garden Party in the Vicarage garden which I remember as a child, although in those days we didn’t have a brass band, or a Punch & Judy for that matter, but we did have a bran tub!
This year the Fair was opened by the Mayor of the Wirral (The Wirral being a Metropolitan Borough I learned). He and the Mayoress stayed for the whole afternoon. I had just finished my last show and was beginning to pack up when the Mayor’s minder (there must be some official title but I don’t know it) came to ask if Mr Punch was still available for a photograph with the be-chained couple. Of course Punch agreed, well he’s always been a supporter of Civic Authority, and he cheekily asked for a copy of the picture. The Mayoress asked for a business card, so can we look forward to a summons to the Mayor’s Parlour?
I’ve just been sent leaflets and brochures to publicize this event but sadly the theatre will not be open until the Summer Holidays so I thought I’d just mention it on here. It sounds an exciting event with a lot of puppetry from all over Britain, with 32 ticketed events and 14 free Outdoor Acts.
With Puppetry for ADULTS & FOR CHILDREN
The website for more information, the programme, and for booking seats is:
Well the Summer has started with some lovely sunny days. The Caerwys Agricultural Show, which coincided with The Queen’s Official Birthday, was blessed with glorious sunshine. They deserved the good weather since last year’s event suffered the worst weather I have ever experienced for a show. It was so wet and the ground so waterlogged that the cars and trucks were getting bogged down getting on to the showground. It got worse, in fact it rained all day long. So it seemed only fair that they should strike lucky this year.
I did three shows during the day with goodly crowds for each.
I’ve also been busy in the Harlequin with school shows – two coming from Northern Ireland and a third from the Sheffield area. There are less of these private bookings these days, partly due to the high cost of transport but also to the increasing health and safety complications involved in planning such trips.
They usually are older children, around 11 years old, and they make a lovely audience, eager and appreciative.
I’ve just taken a break from rehearsing Alice which I am startingearly since as it gets nearer to end of term I’ll have less time due to work in schools. This is when many of the schools book me to visit the school with a puppet themed workshop, usually to fit in with their Seaside topic.
Now excuse me, there’s a Duchess and a Cheshire Cat need my attention.