Saturday, 24 June 2017

The Backyard Dramaturgy: Chen-Chieh Sun @ Edfringe 2017

The Backyard Story 
by Puppet Beings Theatre
Venue 26: Summerhall Red Lecture Theatre / Time: 11.45am (50 mins)
August 2, 3: £6 / August 4-6, 8-13, 15-20,22-27: £10
Box office: 0131 560 1581

Answers from Chen-Chieh Sun aka Jack Sun, founding artistic director

What was the inspiration for this performance?
During my teen-age years I read the book ‘The Little Sun,’ written by Liang Lin. There is a description that stirred my imagination, and still touches me. It goes like this: “Seeing the clothes of whole family hanging under the sun in the backyard, makes me feel like it is another form of family reunion.” What a touching scene! It was this line that brought about the creation of The Backyard Story

The show uses clothes as the creative material. We make clothes start to move, enabling us to take the audience on a journey full of emotions. We talk about what people may experience in life, such as parent-child relations, love and competition. By using these readily available materials in the ways that we do, we hope our audience will feel touched by the performance.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas?
In my opinion the answer is definitely yes. Through performances we can successfully convey our ideas and emotions to audience in an abstract way. There are examples in some demonstrations where people express their appeals by performing a drama. 

Puppet theatre is commonly used in this method of conveying ideas, in part because puppets can be symbolic and are able to show the cruel side of the society sometimes through exaggeration. Thus, it can help people to better understand ideas. So I would say that performance is always a good space for the public discussion of ideas, and puppet theatre plays an important role in that.

How did you become interested in making performance?
Puppet theatre in Taiwan is most commonly associated with highly decorated puppets. By establishing Puppet Beings Theatre in 2000, I wanted to promote puppet arts in children’s theatre while seeking out a new form that combined the contemporary and the traditional, and that gave fresh meaning and attention to puppetry. Besides giving performances, the company provides educational materials and classes for all ages, including professionals.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?
In our show we use a red balloon as a way of bringing to life the clothes that have been hung up to dry. The balloon is light and floats in the air. Sometimes we say our dreams are like that. They float in our minds and, of course, sometimes they come true. So the balloon sort of represents a dream, or another world, which comes to life through the other objects.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?
We call our work children’s theatre, but The Backyard Story and our other shows are for parents, and for all adults too. They all watch it together but have different reactions, different thinking. We welcome these different points of view.
What do you hope that the audience will experience?
The show has many scenes, each with its own theme but all closely associated with everyday life and therefore immediately familiar. We are telling stories and want to open up people’s imaginations and entertain, but there is also an educational aspect to The Backyard Story that focuses on interpersonal relationships and getting along peaceably with others. 

For example, there’s one part that’s about family. Three pieces of clothing become father, mother and child. I want to express to the audience how the parents treat their child, and to make them think afterwards. As they watch the show, I hope that children and their parents will respond emotionally to what they are experiencing.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
One of the most important aspects of Puppet Beings Theatre is the use in performance of everyday objects that are easy to get hold of. We want to show how you can use things from daily life to widen children’s imagination and vision. 

When the audience goes home after the show, we like to think we have inspired parents to play with their children in a similar way, and to be creative using objects from around their homes. You don’t need a beautiful, gorgeous puppet to make puppet theatre or to perform.

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