Buxton or Bust
Buxton Puppet Festival director Peter Charlton
on his 2004 success
After last year’s successful first Buxton Puppet Festival, we
were keen to return with a bigger and better show for 2004. These
hopes were fuelled by an invitation by Buxton Opera House to go into
partnership as festival producers, which would give us use of their
publicity department, box office and, on certain days, their beautiful
theatre. Hopes however were dashed when ACE rejected our application
and I had £17,000 less in the budget than I had hoped for. A
lot of form filling and calling in of favours resulted, and by mid-May
we were able to publish a full week-long bill of performances and
workshops. Top of the bill was Japanese Puppet Master Nori Sawa, currently
residing in Prague where I first saw him some years ago. Last year
Nori did a one-day Bunraku workshop and performed his show, both to
great acclaim. This year he suggested doing a four-day puppet-making
workshop and a performance of his new show, Fairy Tales. Thanks to
funding from several Japanese charities, this was accomplished with
some success. His show rapidly sold out and nine keen puppeteers signed
on for his workshop.
Following the opening, The Beresford Puppets’ excellent History
of Clowns, which combines performance and workshop, the Mayor of Buxton
duly officially opened the festival and made British Puppet and Model
Theatre Guild history by being the first person to open a festival
with their own puppet. She was the proud owner of a very early Pelham
The rest of the festival, which consisted of daily workshops for children,
day-time performances for children, evening shows for adults, street
shows plus an exhibition of puppets and puppet-related ephemera, was
equally successful. All shows played to fairly full houses, many had
the House Full notices up. And there were some excellent shows to
be seen. Two local companies were amongst those who sold out: Music
Box with an excellent show for young children and Peak Puppets with
their beautiful and humorous shadow show, The Seven Voyages of Sinbad.
Waggish Radish Theatre from Bulgaria gave a most entertaining Under
the Carpet that drew admiration remarks from both the local audience
and visiting puppeteers.
New companies were given a chance to show their wares and showed that
there is a lot of young talent emerging. Mother and young son company,
Harvey’s Puppet Show from Yorkshire showed promise and the newly-formed
Rubbish(d) with their 4th Violin on the Left got not only a full house
but also lots of cheers for their high-energy, off-the-wall production.
'More of this please' requested one of the response forms. The Scratch
Night also produced some interesting work, mingling old, traditional
styles with modern cutting-edge material, and a few bits in between.
A good night – and well supported by the Buxton people. Many
superlatives were written on the response sheets for: Blue Sky Theatre’s
Round and Round the Garden Like a Teddy Bear"; Presto Puppets’
The Snow Queen and Puppet Parade; Stephen Mottram’s company
Animata with 'In Suspension' and Nori Sawa’s Fairy Tales.
Whilst the rest of England sweltered under a heat wave, the streets
of Buxton were often so cold and wet that street shows were out of
the question, but when the sunshine appeared so did Professor James
Arnott’s Punch & Judy Show, The Wychwood Marionettes' Street
Circus and Mister Peter’s Puppets’ St. George & the
Dragon, all getting good crowds and encouraging ‘bottles’!
Workshops run by Keith Barnes, Pauline Venables and Ted & Kath
Beresford did good business, and children proudly hugging recently-made
puppets became a common sight in Buxton. Not enough space to mention
all the shows in detail, but successful performances were also given
by Puppets & Praises, The Beresford Puppets and Peter Charlton
with The Song and Dance Men and Mister Peter’s Puppets’
The Animal Show. The last day of the festival featured the Toy Theatre
sector of the Guild, the highlights of which were a performance of
The Pirates of Penzance by The Peasgoods and Paul Kingsley’s
Cappricio Theatre with excerpts from opera.
Plans are already afoot for Buxton Puppet Festival 2005… Book
early to avoid disappointment!