Friday, 20 July 2018

Henry's Dramaturgy: Mark Down @ Edfrige 2018

Award winning Blind Summit return to Edinburgh with Extreme Puppetry
Multi-award winning puppetry innovators Blind Summit present the UK premiere of their brand new show HENRY, a 3 person, 1 puppet theatrical memoire from beyond the grave, at the 2018 Edinburgh Festival FringeHenry will be staged at the Pleasance Dome (venue 23) from Saturday 11 to Sunday 26 August 2018; and follows the huge Edinburgh Fringe successes of Citizen Puppet (2015) and The Table (2011), both Scotsman Fringe First Award winners.
Henry is set within a puppetry Master Class on the subject of 'puppetry possession', hosted by master puppeteer Mark Down.  Mark brings to life a puppet made of bin bags which begins to take on the character of his father, celebrated actor and old ham of the title, Henry Chessel.  
With the help of two slightly sinister, hooded puppeteers (Fiona Clift and Tom Espiner) masquerading as students, Mark tells the story of Henry's rise to fame, fall from grace and the last week of his father's life.  Haunted by his father's recent death and a neglected childhood Mark explores the relationships between father and son, acting and puppetry, form and function, life and death.

Mark Down, Blind Summit’s Artistic Director and Master Puppeteer, who performs in and directs their new production Henry answers the Dramaturgy questions.

Blind Summit will present the UK premiere of their brand new show HENRY at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2018. It follows the huge Edinburgh Fringe successes of Citizen Puppet (2015) and The Table (2011), both Scotsman Fringe First Award winners, amongst many other awards when touring internationally.

Set within a Master Class on 'puppetry possession' Henry is a one man, three-man show with puppetry. It’s narrated by puppeteer, director and “control freak” Mark Down who explores the mystical power of puppetry, assisted by two, slightly sinister, masked puppeteers. Things get out of control when the spirit of “Henry” enters the puppet. Who is “Henry”? What does he want? And is he dangerous?

What was the inspiration for this performance?

We usually begin with a puppet and in this case with an old puppet that I wanted to revisit called “the tramp". He was made as a tramp character out of bin bags and sitting on a shopping trolley. I took him apart and started to remake him, and slowly he morphed into an "old hammy actor" and then "my late father”, and became someone called “Henry”.  It a tortuous and sometimes torturous process. The show develops from finding a way to use him on stage. 

Where The Table was about being a puppet, Henry is about being a puppeteer. Specifically a furious, fifty year old puppeteer.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

That’s such a difficult question. I want to say it is, and I want it to be. The mixture of intellectual argument and empathic engagement is potentially very powerful and should be, in theory, the perfect way to debate. But on the other hand Trump is a great performer, and indeed all the so called “populist" politicians, so I think we should be very wary of performance per se.

How did you become interested in making performance?

I went to see Romeo and Juliet at the RSC in 1986 and I understood the play in a way that I really didn’t when I read it. That was revelatory for me. I wanted to do that for other people.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

I "follow the puppet". And I get lots of help. Everyone involved is invited to share their opinions. Honesty is encouraged and has to be accepted in return. I work with some performers I’ve known a long time and like and trust. We have a shared ambition for puppetry. And we try it out on audiences before we are ready and get them to tell us what they think too. And we keep asking the question - why do we need a puppet to do this? What does a puppet bring to the story?

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

It is experimental. It’s for grown ups. I don’t know if it’s any good. I like it. I hope it is funny and will move people. I hope it will make people think. And I hope it will fill people with wonder. And I will only know when we show it to audiences. So in those senses, yes.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

See above! I hope they will come with open minds and tell us what it is. The Table became The Table in front of Edinburgh audiences. I hope they will help us bring Henry to life...

In an absurd twist all is not as it seems. As Henry tells his actor’s tales, Mark reveals that he never actually knew his father and the entire basis of the relationship between father and son, actor and puppeteer, puppeteer and puppet, narrative and truth are drawn into question.  Is Mark making it all up? Is his father? Does it matter?
Henry is an entertaining but thought provoking show that ultimately acknowledges that everything is invention and the greatest truth is found in the biggest lie.
With their brand new show Blind Summit tear up the puppetry rule book again, employing their own unique performance style - 'Extreme Puppetry' - a character led, improvisational reinvention of traditional Japanese Bunraku puppetry - together with their trademark irreverent humour. 
Blind Summit Artistic Director and Master Puppeteer, Mark Down, performs in and directs Henry.  The incredibly accomplished puppeteers Fiona Clift (The Table, Citizen Puppet) and Tom Espiner (The Table, Madam Butterfly) play the hooded students.  Julian Spooner, Co-Artistic director of Rhum and Clay Theatre Company, and Freelance Theatre Director Alex Crampton are collaborators and assistant directors of Henry.  The production was devised by Blind Summit and written by Mark Down.
Blind Summit is a London based, internationally touring producer of puppet-based theatre under the artistic vision of Mark Down.  The company was founded by Mark in 1997 and is considered one of the world’s leading puppet theatre companies. 
Blind Summit are an Arts Council England NPO and Henry was made in association with Il Funaro, Pistoia. 
Henry Listings Information:
Venue: Pleasance King Dome, Pleasance Dome, 1 Bristo Square, EH8 9AL
EdFringe Venue Number: Venue 23
Dates: 11 - Sunday 26 August 2018 – No days off
Time: 15.30 - 16.30 / Running Time: 60 mins (no interval)
Ticket Prices: £9.00 - £12.00
Box Office:  0131 556 6550 
The Blind Summit Team for Henry:
Cast (alphabetical):                          Fiona Clift, Mark Down, Tom Espiner       
Writer & Director:                              Mark Down
Assistant Directors:                          Julian Spooner and Alex Crampton
Design:                                                                        Ruth Paton
Lighting:                                                    Hansjorg Schmidt
Technical Manger:                             Greg Cebula
General Manager/Producer:      Ellie Simpson
Devised by Blind Summit Theatre
Mark Down and Blind Summit Theatre
Blind Summit is a London based, internationally touring producer of puppet-based theatre under the vision of Artistic Director, Mark Down, one of the world's leading puppeteers.
It was founded in 1997 by Mark Down and is considered one of the world’s leading puppet theatre companies.  Since then Mark and the company have been pioneering their own style of “Extreme Puppetry", a character led, improvisational reinvention of traditional Japanese Bunraku puppetry, provocative, funny, political, outrageous, accessible theatre that pushes the boundaries of puppetry. 
Their shows such as Low Life (2005), 1984 (2009), and The Table (2011), have toured the world in theatre and puppet festivals.  Mark’s work as Director and Master Puppeteer has drawn plaudits in a series of landmark opera and theatre productions all over the world.  He has collaborated to create the breath-taking puppetry in large scale productions such as Anthony Minghella’s Madam Butterfly, for the English National Opera, and Danny Boyle’s Olympic Opening Ceremony. In 2014 Mark directed his first full scale puppet opera staging of Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol for the Bregenz Festival, since voted the Best Festival at the International Opera Awards 2014. 
Mark’s work as Director and Master Puppeteer has drawn plaudits in a series of landmark opera and theatre productions all over the world, including commissions for the Spoleto and Bregenz Festivals and, in Anthony Minghella’s production of Madame Butterfly, for the English National Opera and, currently, the Met Opera in New York.
Their shows are devised and directed by Mark Down in collaboration with a cohort of exceptional trained puppeteers, makers, designers and lighting designers, who have also contributed to the creation of some of the most extraordinary spectacles of recent years, including War Horse and Pinocchio at the Royal National Theatre, Boris & Sergey by Flabbergast Theatre and The Lorax at the Old Vic.
Past productions include: The Table (2011-present); Madam Butterfly (ENO, Met Opera, LNOBT, 2005-present); Citizen Puppet (2015); Le Rossignol (Bregenz Festival, 2014); The Magic Flute (Bregenz Festival, 2013-14); A Dog’s Heart (Complicite, ENO, DNO, La Scala, 2010-14); The Heads (2013); London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony (2012); 1984 (2009-10); The Call of the Wild (2010), Low Life (2005 – 2009), Kommilitonen! (Royal Academy of Music & Julliard, New York, 2011); Faeries (ROH2, 2008-10); El Gato Con Botas (Broadway: Gotham Chamber Opera, Tectonic Theatre Project, 2010-14); Shun-kin (Complicite, Setagaya Theatre Tokyo, Barbican, 2008-13); Angus, Thongs and Even More Snogging (West Yorkshire Playhouse, 2012); On Emotion (Soho Theatre, 2009); His Dark Materials (Birmingham Rep & West Yorkshire Playhouse, 2009); Pirate Puppetry, Martin’s Wedding, The Spaceman, Mr. China’s Son and Tramping the Boards.

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