Not many people were here for the last session of the year – I think just four or five of us. We worked with marionettes inside, and spent the last hour eating cake and chatting with Psyche and Lisa (the cake was for Pui Shan’s birthday).
The day was mostly spent outside working with the marionettes, while Wong Sifu and company tidied up the workshop space. Luckily it was a nice sunny day. At the end of the day we went over the Lam Chong scene with music again, inside. I think I’m gradually improving at hitting things with a small stick – it’s good to have more space.
Today some of us (Lifi, Pui Shan and I) went to Wong Tai Sin in the morning to see the company perform at a kindergarten. It was very nice little performance, which the kids clearly enjoyed (and the parents clearly thought noteworthy enough to watch later on their mobile phones.)
The best thing about this was the use of the different styles of puppetry within the same story. Characters (e.g. Piggy) would go from being a rod puppet, walking across to the shadow puppet screen and transforming immediately into a shadow puppet (same character, different style of puppet), and later on running out to become a marionette.
Today was a self-led practice again. We carried on working with the marionette techniques we learnt on Friday. I also tried learning a few of the other marionettes’ tricks. I tried catching the sticks with 林沖, as well as making him spin and flip. I also tried the monk’s (和尚) trick of swinging and catching his beads (this was the most difficult). Lifi and I kept working on the two 衙差.
It’s the end of the first week and it’s been quite tiring. It’s much harder work to spend a day on marionettes than it is on shadow puppets – it’s just physically quite hard to hold them up for so long, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it.
We had the full day with master Wong, learning marionette techniques for 野豬林. I’m continuing to work on one of the two police-equivalent characters (衙差 – I think it’s usually translated as marshal). I learned how to attach a stick to the puppet’s hands (using a small elastic band, looped either side of the hand and over the thumb, winding the wrist-string around the long end). Apart from that, various ways of hitting things with the stick – both with the right hand holding the paddle and controlling the stick, or with the left hand holding the paddle while controlling a leg. I also learned to fall over sideways. The interesting thing about the marionettes is the way you move your whole body in order to make the puppet realistic – to fall over your drop your weight down to the side, not just your arms. The teacher is really incredible to watch in this way – he’s pretty much performing the role at the same time as the puppet.
Yesterday and this morning we continued to work with the shadow puppets, but this afternoon we started working on a marionette piece based on part of the Water Margin (水滸傳).
Useful words when being told what to do with a marionette:
線 – sin3 – string
緊 – gan2 – tight
鬆 – sung1 – loose
The performance is called 野豬林, the main character being 林沖.
I made a very small video, partly testing magic lantern RAW on the 5D3, but also to give a flavour of what we’re doing:
I posted a while ago about some Chinese puppetry workshops I’d been attending in November, which I really enjoyed.
I didn’t know very much about the overall project at the time, thinking it was just some one-off free workshops. However, the workshop week finished with an audition (using marionettes with a pre-recorded soundtrack/dialogue in Mandarin.) That was followed later by another movement-based audition, and in the end I’ve ended up as one of eight people chosen to be in the ‘Sidekick Project,’ which involves learning traditional puppetry and participating in performances and outreach. It’s lovely to be chosen (I’m the only foreigner). So there will probably be a lot more puppetry stuff appearing here.