Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Blinding Dramaturgy: Mark Down talks Moses...

Moses. A cantankerous three man operated puppet with a cardboard head. He lives on a table.

Tonight he wants to tell you an epic story about God and Moses, life and death, and puppetry…on a table. But Moses gets easily distracted…

A cross between Tommy Cooper and Eddie Izzard, this table-top philosopher and comedian is the funniest piece of cardboard you will ever meet… on a table.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
Mark Down: Two things – one the idea of Moses – a puppet – and his “staff” – puppeteers – and two the idea of doing a show with a single puppet on a table for one hour and nothing else.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
We rang everyone who had written letters to us and invited them in to meet us and play over a period of two weeks in the rehearsal room. At the end we kept the keenest two! And the other two were me and Nick.

How did you become interested in making performance?
I saw Jess Conrad in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat when I was about 12 and I thought “I want to do that”. I realised I couldn't do that (I can’t sing or dance) so I would have to make something that I could do. 

I met Nick Barnes after I left drama school 20 years later. He made these amazing puppets.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
In a way yes – everything we do is an experiment, the show builds on ideas that have been around for a while – in this case the beginnings of The Table came from our warm up exercises we did with the little boy in Madam Butterfly, we work by trying stuff and trying it again.

In this case there was a difference – we decided to make it like a stand up comedian – making first twenty minutes, then thirty, then forty – learning, from the audiences, how to keep their attention and developing material as we got better and needed more.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
I hope they will re-examine their relationship with belief.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

We use comedy to relax the audience. We begin by acknowledging that it is a puppet show. The elephant in the room. That relaxes everyone. Then we go on saying it again and again, all the way to the end.

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
Bunraku puppetry. 

Are there any other questions that might help me to understand the meaning of dramaturgy for you in your work?
My main concern is why are we using a puppet? What is the puppet trying to say that is unique to a puppet? That cannot be said without a puppet.

Blind Summit Theatre – the makers of Low Life, Madam Butterfly, A Dog’s Heart, 1984, and puppet directors for the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony – appear at manipulate for the first time with this internationally acclaimed, multi award-winning show.

Founded in 1997 by Mark Down & Nick Barnes, Blind Summit aims to pioneer new methods of performing with puppets, in new places, in new ways, reinventing puppetry for new, modern adult audiences.

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