Today I discovered an visually exciting looking production which is opening at the Norwich Puppet Theatre, UK in two days time. It features a well-known young British puppeteer, Steve Tiplady, artistic director of the Little Angel Marionette Theatre in London. Steve has been integrally involved in the growth of adult puppet theatre in the UK over the past few years.
The Chalk Giants begins in the present with a film of puppeteers Sally Brown and Steve Tiplady and musician Jonathan Lambert on a nature walk at Hunstanton as they invite the audience to come with them on a tour through the ancient landscape of England. The production uses film shot at significant sites along the chalk escarpment which traverses southern England to tell parts of the story and to bring the landscape to life. I wish we could watch some of that now!
The production opens with the creation of Jack, a puppet drawn in chalk which magically comes to life, and the discovery of some beans that are, of course, also made from chalk. At first, this appears to be the familiar tale of Jack and the Bean Stalk but soon it becomes apparent that there is a twist to the tale. Jack kills Blunderbog Cormoran, the giant at the top of the beanstalk, and begins a quest to rid England of giants. A fun, fast and furious tale ensues with Jack slaying giants across the land. However, is Jack the hero of the day? Blunderbog’s distraught wife and a wonderfully sensitive narrative leave the audience to decide.
The new production combines chalk together with shadow puppetry, a toy theatre, rod puppets, pre-recorded and live film, to give a cutting-edge contemporary performance of a traditional tale steeped in legend and imbued with a sense of England’s past. Guyanese-born poet, John Agard, has been specially commissioned to write a collection of narrative poems, dialogues and scenes, which are threaded through the story and add another layer of richness to the show. The Chalk Giants is beautifully augmented with music by Jonathan Lambert. The folk-influenced musical accompaniment adds vibrancy and an additional dimension to the production. Jonathan performs his compositions on clarinet, bamboo flute, and appropriately, a xylophone made from stone. Ancient lithophone sounds from a cave at Skiddaw in the Lake District are woven in and there are songs ideal for audience participation.
The production will also perform at the Edinburgh Festival next month. Wish I could be there! For details check here!