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If you think Punch keeps you busy.....

Postby Richard Coombs » 29 Aug 2007, 10:35

Im just home from a wonderful visit to the Harlequin Puppet Theatre.

Thank you Chris for a splendid day.
It was my first time there, and to anyone who has never been , I would say 'Go !'

It is a perfect little purpose built Marrionette Theatre ( apologies if I am 'teaching anyones Grandma to suck eggs' here ...doubtless a great many of you have been there at some time or other since it was built in the 1950s ).

But if you saw show there in decades gone by , when as many as four or five marrionettists perfomed a show , then I would urge you to treat yourself to another visit now.

If you thought a Punch and Judy Show keeps you on your toes , and your hands busy , then you want to see what Chris Sommerville manages to do for an hour and a half single handed.

The first half of the programme was a splendid and varied 'Puppet Circus' , which included as part of the finale some Victorian figures , all of which were over a hundred years old , and one of which was twice that ..and still going strong.

I was espesially pleased to see the 'Grand Turk' transformation puppet in action ( as I had only seen photos and line drawings of them up till now...which dont do them justice) .....Each of the limbs of this puppet fly off and change mid-air into a smaller puppet figure ...so does the head . Lastlly the torso section becomes another 'full sized' character of its own--- this was great to watch during the show , and also fascinating afterwards to see Chris reassemble it , which takes a good 8 minutes.

The second half was in two parts ..Mr Bim Bam Boozles Magic , using children from the audience , followed by a puppet Cabaret where you could see both the puppets and the puppeteer in action as this was performed on the Harlequins 'forestage' in front of the Proscenium ( the 'Circus' had been performed on the marrionette stage itself so only the puppets were visible)


A very varied and polished performance ..and as if that wasnt enough -- Chris sold you your Ice creams during the 12 minute Interval, so he didnt even get a rest then.


If you are in the vacintity ..then have a visit .
Shows at 3pm daily Monday to Friday ( except Thursdays...when I think Chris is lying down in darkened room , getting his strength back :-) . )


Best Wishes Richard
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Postby Chris » 29 Aug 2007, 10:45

Thanks for the plug Richard - good to have you visit, and I loved seeing your new mini-mammoth booth. Thanks for breaking your journey on your way back from your Bank Holiday Aberystwyth One Man Festival.

Actually Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays are reserved for Punch and Judy.


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Postby Richard Coombs » 29 Aug 2007, 11:02

Cheers Chris , It was a highly enjoyably day ....and the 'plug' was a pleasure .

You are very modest about the Harlequin Theatre on this board ( I know you will say that is because this is a 'Punch' board ) but as you run and maintain it , the occaisional advert for the Harlequin , or news of new Productions , and showtimes , wouldnt come amiss.


As to 'one man festival' ..yes it was a shame not to have the' Punch and Judy Festival' at Aberystwyth this year ... it would have been its 8th year.

It was nice to be there , keeping some Punch on the Prom , but a little bit 'lonely' after all the spectacle and camaraderie of previous years.

It was good to be a stop-gap though . Lots of people came up before and after the shows to say how sad they were that the Festival wasnt there. Many had come to Abber especially , expecting to find it all happening as usual.

All I can say is that Jim from the local Council who works with Clive Chandler to get the Festival organised , is determined to see it return , hopefully as soon as 2008. . . fingers crossed !

Best Wishes Richard
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Postby johnstoate » 29 Aug 2007, 12:53

Err, I know I'm a bit stupid, But how have we allowed this festival to escape? - OK, so (As usual) there was doubtless a problem with funding, And similarly, being a Bank Holiday weekend most of us were booked elsewhere, But surely there are enough of us to have fielded a side, even if it was a 'bottle only and shared 'deal. If nothing else, as an alternative to keep it going, I feel sure that there are enough aspiring young Profs out there to have put on a 'new blood' show. What is the point of establishing public awareness of our art with festivals if we cannot support them when required?? Well done, Richard for keeping the flag flying, The 8th festival will go down as 'The one-man show' year!! - As to the 9th, I, for one, will be glad to add my support regardless, - That's two for next year, Who else is in???
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Postby Chris » 29 Aug 2007, 13:10

And next year, wouldn't it be likely that they'd want you to do it again for free?
And I'm sure the people who have worked so hard to get this festival funding in the past would just love you muscling in on their venture and showing the powers that be that funding wasn't really necessary ....



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Postby johnstoate » 29 Aug 2007, 13:40

Here we go again, - I never mentioned Free. And what one expects is not always what one gets! - My viewpoint is that, from Richard's comments, a demand has been created, Supplying that demand, (ie; The expectation of a festival) is in our interest. As to 'muscling in' - Not my intention at all, I am simply stating that I could be available to support the venture. As a previous organizer myself, I am more than aware of the difficulties and work involved, sometimes a gesture of support is very helpful! - I do notice that you aren't castigating Richard for supporting them this year.
As to 'The powers that be' seeing that 'funding wasn't really necessary' - If the festival grows, and draws public support, it also increases in importance to the local economy, and therefore becomes more deserving of funding, As a parallel, If there is no funding for a certain little festival in Covent Garden, will it still go ahead??
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Postby Nick Jackson » 29 Aug 2007, 15:18

Sorry, John, but I'm with Chris on this one. Funding withdrawn and yet the festival goes ahead shows that funding is no longer needed.

Now, back to Richard, tell us more of this mini mammoth booth!!
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Postby mrmarmalade » 29 Aug 2007, 16:56

Hey, this was in praise (very justified) of the Harlequin. How did it become an argument? Sorry, Discussion!!
Back to the Harlequin, or rather before the H.
Chris., I am hoping to take a Photograph, shortly (when I can get the family to help) which will include a couple of Puppets which I bought from Eric when he was performing in a Marquee in the Park before the Theatre was built. On the few times that I have been able to get there, some time ago, I have thoroughly enjoyed and would love to come and see your one man performance, Chris.
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Postby Richard Coombs » 29 Aug 2007, 18:24

TO clarify Aberystwyth slightly .... the event was , and will remain a 'College' Festival.

That is not intended to sound a 'snooty' reply ...but it is true that the seven years of the Festival to date are due to Clive Chandlers liason with the Aberystwyth Council ...and a very successful liason and a popular event it has been .

I had very much wanted to be a part of it in years gone by ..but had to wait until I was first asked to join the College , and then asked to be in the Festival ....( the Festival always uses six College members , but on a rota basis , so different shows were there each year)

It not happenning this year , was , as you surmised John , a Funding issue ..but we were not let down by Aberystwyth Council ..but by the private buissiness part of the Funders , who didnt manage to pledge their support in time secure the go-ahead.

The Council are very much behind the event , and are adamant it will return , with all its funding , and all its six Punch booths , and the walkabout P&J figures and the Band , and the pre -show musicians , exactly as in past years.

But this will be with full liason with Clive Chandler , who was instrumental in getting it all going in the first place.

This year I was not a 'Festival' ..just a stop-gap ... a face familliar to last years audiences ; there to assure the very many people who asked , that yes the intention is to have the Festival again in future years , exactly as they remember it.

So next time will be the 8th festival : not the 9th .......I wasnt a 'Festival' ... ( not even the 7 1/2 one LOL)

My being there also meant that day trippers who had come on the Bank Holiday expecting lots of Punch , were not left without any at all to watch.
As a result I did have very good audiences , and a great deal of Fun.

I was engaged by the Council , at the same rate as the Festival Booking would have been ...and wouldnt have had it any other way ...

I agree with Chris , that providing them with what would have been perceived as 'free' labor ( if I were only 'bottling' ) would not have furthered the cause for the Festivals return in future years.

Your offer of support was lovely John , but there really was only room to budget for one show there this time.

Also to have put on more than one show ' independantly' would have gone further than 'having a show there to fill the gap , and a Punchman to answer the publics questions' ( and actually put them right when they said " I suppose there is no Festival 'coz the Council are being mean !)

To have had more than one show ,( but less than the usual 'Full Monty' ) might have sent mixed messages , and might just have looked like a half arsed attempt at having a Festival , without really having one .

This way struck the right balance I think....it answered the publics questions ( and there were lots)
I added an explanation about the Festival into every pre show warm-up , and talked a lot with the passers by in between who wanted to know where the 'Puppet Making' stand and all the other shows were this time? etc. etc.

Clive rang me this morning to see how it all went, and I was glad to tell him it went well , but that folk will be very pleased to see the Big Festival return , hopefully next year.

I hope this clears up any issues.
Best Wishes Richard
Last edited by Richard Coombs on 29 Aug 2007, 19:54, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby johnstoate » 29 Aug 2007, 19:23

Thank you, Richard, - I now understand the situation. The road to hell is, indeed paved with them! :oops: Further, I regret that I shall have to withdraw my offer of support since as a non-swazzler, I am, of course, debarred from the college. My earlier comments, although perhaps ill-advised were, non the less kindly meant, Long may the festival continue. Regards, John.
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Postby Richard Coombs » 29 Aug 2007, 19:36

Thanks John ...you cant knock a man for good intentions :-)


I too am often over keen and stomp in with hobnail boots on where angels would fear to tread , so I know how ya feel :-)

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Postby James » 29 Aug 2007, 22:53

Glad you enjoyed your trip up to the Harlequin Richard. I was there the day before en route from Wales. Always good to see a show and chat to Chris. He's been v patient putting up with some of my wafflings and pipe dreams over the years.
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Postby Richard Coombs » 11 Sep 2007, 12:12

I know this thread started with The Harlequin theatre ...but it then meandered off to Aberystwyth ...which is indeed a twisty , turning, car journey through some splendid Welsh Scenery.

I am just about to have my Website updated ( I ve left the info with my mate that does it , but it wont all be on for a week or so yet)

But in having picures shrunk down to an uploadable size for that , these two pics of Aberystwyth are now also uploadable here.

I havnt used the 'Upload Pics' facility on this site in quite a while , as I still dont know how to re-size my images to make them small enough to load ( and am still reliant on 'The Kindess of Strangers' LOL)

But I have to say Chris , that you have re-worked the UPLOAD PICS link splendidly ...it is now SO easy to use ( and it automaticaly sends a cut and paste link to your email address to make putting the images into a Chat Message a real doddle)

Thanks again for all you do on here:-))

Heres the two pics :
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Postby Chris » 11 Sep 2007, 12:27

Yeah, I've had audiences like that!
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Postby Richard Coombs » 11 Sep 2007, 12:45

LOL ..yup

I think that is why Tony has so many pics of just his booth 'set-up' ...it is so difficult to get a good pic of the show in progress with an audience.

When you work on your own your only options are to photograph the booth before anyone arrives ...as shots of people waiting for a show are never any good , as they usually look bored ..or there are not enough there to make a good impression , or they are just looking in too many different directions to be credible.

..So yes the 'phantom' auduence shots will have to suffice for now.

Best Wishes Richard
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