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Suspense London Puppetry Festival


Now onto its second edition, Suspense is a cross-city festival of adult puppetry that, rather like a Great Collector, has specimens representing every family and subgroup of puppetry and object animation, celebrating the varying detail of the form while taking a certain joyful delight in secreting explicit/bawdy/drunk work in the corners and back pages.

Some of the (very big!) programme has been seen before in London, or at the Edinburgh Fringe, or elsewhere: Rouge28's Urashima Taro is a piece that incorporates paper theatre and explores the idea of 'co-presence' (the relationship and dialogue between puppet and puppeteer) through a Japanese folktale about a poor fisherman 'seduced by a mysterious and cruel turtle-woman'; Folded Feather's Life Still is a painstakingly and minutely detailed evocation of a future world where discarded objects tell – or whisper – the story of a disaster; and Maison Foo's Memoirs of a Biscuit Tin was a great success at the 2010 Edinburgh Fringe, a piece about dementia and memory with a puppetesque eye for the quality and character and narrative of objects.

Elsewhere in the programme Invisible Thread, Liz Walker (formerly an artistic director of Faulty Optic)'s company, present Plucked... A True Fairy Tale; Eye Spy Arts' JEW(ish) animates objects to tell a community's stories; and a collaboration between Mischa Twitchin and George Tomlinson, The Ecstatic Truth of Bruno S., follows up on Twitchin's 09 Suspense piece, the provocative I Wonder Sometimes Who I Am.

And then in that spirit of dissipation, and in the cabaret vein, there's Flabbergast Theatre’s Boris and Sergey's Puppet Cabaret, a profane Eastern European bunraku double-act; Pangolin's Teatime's The Great Puppet Horn, a collection of broadly satiric sketches that was shown at the first Suspense; and the ever-popular, adults-only Puppet Grinder Cabaret, bringing together work from diverse artists using puppets for dark/raunchy/earthy ends.    

For those preferring some formalised and genteel and reasoned debate – some cerebration – there's a talk on 2 November, Directing Puppetry, where an afternoon of spirited discussion will revolve around the contributions of directors from New York, Glasgow, London and Tiblisi; and then on 4 November there's a symposium on Puppetry and Politics that will incorporate the British UNIMA John Phillips Annual Memorial Lecture and be followed by the British UNIMA Annual General Meeting.

In such a fulsome programme Suspense has not neglected to create opportunities for professional training. Advanced practitioners are invited to attend a Hands Off Masterclass with Nenagh Watson, which looks at the 'Functionality of the Object', positing the idea that the movement, or 'life', a puppeteer gives an object might not be what that object wants. Plus there are workshops with master Georgian puppeteer Nino Namicheishvili (The Choreography of Puppetry, 6 November, focusing particularly on what it takes for three or four performers to operate a single puppet), and with US company Great Small Works (Toy Theatre Workshop, 3 November, giving an insight into their modern revival of the 19th century style). 

That's not even everything. 28 shows at eleven venues including the Little Angel Theatre, Jacksons Lane, the V&A, Wilton's Music Hall, the Roundhouse and the New Diorama Theatre... see the Suspense website for all the info.


Suspense London Puppetry Festival 2011 takes place 28 October – 6 November 2011 at venues across London.

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