Time to begin

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Time to begin

Postby Cood123 » 08 Nov 2012, 21:29

Hello again everyone,

I had posted before about wanting to start, and since then I've purchased my own Mr. Punch from Bryan Clarke. At the moment he is the only puppet I have as I am between employment.

I hope to have everything ready to begin performing by October of next year but there are some things that I'm having trouble with.

I can't decide on which booth style to use, or if I could possibly combine a few. Any recommendations?

When speaking with my swazzle I have trouble saying words with "m" and "n" in the middle of them because trying to make that sound cuts off my air flow, and it makes it hard for people to understand what I'm saying.
What do I do?
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Re: Time to begin

Postby Richard Coombs » 09 Nov 2012, 12:20

Hello Cood

It is Practice Practice Im afraid ...no easy shortcuts with the swazzle _assuming you have a good one that works well - ( and by that I mean one where you are not feeling like you are 'blowing up a balloon' every time you say a few words : if noises are coming out with just a fraction more puff and effort than normal speech then things are about right - and then yes ,it really is just practise )


I dont know whereabouts in the UK you are , but you have just missed the PJF October Fest in Covent Garden...so I would put the 2013 Mayfayre in your Diary and make sure you get there.

And dont just watch shows..take your Mr Punch along with you and actually TALK to as many performers as you can. ...this will mean going up and introducing yourself to people ----- now I know that sounds daft , but we are not mind readers , and in the past some folk have said Proffs were not welcoming at some events --well we actually need to know you want to say hello and talk , otherwise you just seem like another member of the public hanging around to watch shows.


But generally the Proffs at these things are a friendly bunch .
If you explain you are not sure what height of booth to go for , I am sure a few will let you stand in theirs and put your Mr Punch onto the play board ...try as many different height ones as you can ...and take a tape measure with you in your pocket ...no point trying to guess what 'felt right' when you get home ...measure the one that felt the best ( dont go around measuring them all otherwise you might look like a deranged Undertaker lol)

And try out your swazzling there to anyone who will listen ...again most folk at these events will salute your perseverance in trying out the swazzle and will pass on any tips they can . They will also be able to see from how much 'effort and puff' you are having to use whether you have a swazzle that is a dud !

Early May seems quite a long way off , so in the meantime if you are able to make yourself a couple of swazzles based on the one you currently have ..then you will be able to start making your own comparisons for yourself . Cut up an old credit card , and get some cotton tape from a craft shop and follow the plentiful advice on this site.


I would say work on the swazzle thing right now..that way you can make absolutely sure its worth continuing the whole venture...but by the sound of it you are already getting enough from the swazzle you have to be able to do a show. ......if Punch is not fully understandable , then build your dialogue with the other characters , so that what they say clarifies either what Punch just said ..or in some other and hopefully funnier way , lets the audience know what he means.

And as soon as you can get one more puppet so that you can work out the interactions ...
At this stage it doesnt matter which character it is , although perhaps Judy or the Policeman , or a Joey if you are going to have one ( if your Punch speak isnt so understandable , then a Joey makes a good Compere for the show ..so perhaps get that figure first and work out an opening for your show with Joey bringing on Punch and doing some banter with him )

Or buy a Judy and work out the bulk of their encounter , perhaps with a small ( cheap) doll or childs toy as a stand in Baby if you are unable to make your own.

But the point is get another Puppet ..ANY puppet , because a Mr Punch on its own will not let you practice a show . This one puppet can stand in for all the others , you just need something on your hand to put actions and voices to.

You will most probably want a brand new Bryan Clarke Judy so that your Punch and Judy form a recognisable "Pair" ..now I do understand that being between jobs , this might be an expense you are not ready for yet.
But when you build a whole show , it is quite alright to mix and match where you get the puppets from to build set that is unique to you ( I can hear Chris Sommerville in the background screaming at you to build your own ..and although I would agree , something in the fact that you take pride in having bought a 'Bryan Clarke Punch' , is telling me that you are not a maker yourself , otherwise the chances are you would have had a go at making your Punch ) ..So I am making the assumption you are going to buy all your puppets.

As I said , that would probably mean wanting a Brian Clarke Judy , so that Mr & Mrs P pair up well.
So if money is tight right now , then I would be looking out for a second hand Joey or Policeman ..or a Doctor or Boxer you could re-dress/ paint to be a Joey ?

Try advertising on the Sales and Wants part of this board for a single second hand puppet , or trawl ebay etc

The point is get that second puppet so it can be 'every other puppet ' in your show , and let you start practising



You dont even need a booth at this point , just sit at your Kitchen table and work out your show , one puppet encounter with Punch at a time ...that way when you do get a booth you wont be stood inside it wondering what to do, you will have a head start.


In some ways I am envious ...it is all ahead of you just waiting to be explored and played with.
Have Fun with it ..get to the Mayfayre.. and keep asking questions on here.

Good Luck

Richard
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Re: Time to begin

Postby lesclarke » 09 Nov 2012, 14:58

On the point of style, ie hands-in-front or hands-above head you can only decide by trying to work with a pair of puppets at different heights. You don't need a booth for this, if you make a simply constructed wooden frame, consisting of side pieces, top and bottom bars and diagonal bracing, equivalent in size to the front of a booth, and make it so the playboard height is adjustable, use bolts and a series of holes, or even clamps.

Using this 'jig' you can see what suits you and what you prefer, each has advantages and disadvantages.

Check out this site for info, a while back Chris posted a nice diagram showing that there is more than one variation of working heights.

Often the main disadvantage of working hands-above is said to be that it is initially excrutiating on the arms and shoulders, but like many things your body will soon adapt, the problem is will you perform, or practise often enough to keep in shape. The obvious advantage is more freedom of movement.

The majority of people these days are Hands-in-front, and most second hand booths will probably be set up this way, but having acquired one it may be possible to try it out as Hands-in-front and then extend the legs, or add middle extension sections to raise the height needed for hands-above. If the bottom section lazy-tongs are not fixed too low on the legs, metal tubes may fit, otherwise short central extension pieces as in Glyn Edward's 'Universal' design may work.

If you construct the 'jig' this can also be used to develop your show, (it's also more easily stored and quicker to erect than a full booth) and if you hang a large mirror high up on the wall you can watch yourself as you practise.

But ...it's all about Punch being Punch, and for that it's mostly, about the Swazzle!
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Re: Time to begin

Postby Cood123 » 09 Nov 2012, 17:55

Thank you.

I suppose now it would be important to point out that I live in the US and not the UK, so May Faire; while it is a possibility, I can't guarantee anything.

I figured that the swazzle was mostly just practice, and I'll get right to work on that.

I hadn't even thought about using one puppet as all the other characters. Thanks for that tip as well.

At one point I did try and make my own Punch, though my wood carving skills leave a lot to be desired and it didn't turn out to my liking. So, yes, I do plan on buying all my puppets. But, I plan on building my own booth.

Thanks again for all of your help.
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Re: Time to begin

Postby Richard Coombs » 09 Nov 2012, 22:52

Ahh right Cood ...didnt realise that you were from overseas.

I which case dont spend out on airfare , accommodation etc to get to the Mayfaye ...Mayfayre is good , but if you are going to splash out that kinda dosh ...youd probably be better spending it on getting a good few of the puppets you want. Get Your Bryan Clarke Judy to match your Punch ...but check out other Uk builders like Miraiker Battey for some of your other figures ...she carves and dresses beautifuly ...as does Chris Van der Craats ( CvdC on here) ..he is in Australia but ships his wonderful puppets worldwide. Think about combining a potpourri of builders to get a set ...search out some USA puppet makers too . Show them your Clarke Punch to point them in the right direction.

Another good thing about getting figures from several makers , is you might amass a full set faster this way.
Miraiker say, might be too busy to make six puppets ...but could perhaps have time to do you one or two ..same with Cvdc ( altho he is quite prolific and can turn them out quite fast )... Maybe also good to just commission one at a time from whoever you choose ...just to make sure their puppets suit you - if you like what you get sent then order one or two more with that person . but Im guessing money is tight , so you will be doing things piece-meal anyhow ...but it is still nice to spread the work out around the makers .

Also tell them what you are doing , and ask them to recommend who does what ( they may have a flair in certain areas ) -- I would probably opt for a Cvdc Joey ... but a Miraiker Policeman for example. Not sure who does the best Crocodiles currently ...but ask the makers , they will probably be honest in their recommendations , especially if they are making a couple of figures for you themselves anyhow. I dont know if Les Clake makes puppets for other people ? ..but he does lovely Crocs.

Very glad to hear you are going to make your own booth. Search out a copy of "The Frame File" from the archives on here. But when it comes to finding a good height for your play board ... it is a very personal thing .
Chris Somervilles article on here about "Hands in front of face" has loads of useful diagrams and points out a lot of the pros and cons of different heights.

I would say get a couple of lengths of timber and a short plank , lean the two timbers against a wall and use some G-Clamps or Kwick -clamps to fix the plank at a play board height , and then spend some time with your Mr Punch up on the 'shelf' and go through some routines.

Your arms and back will soon tell you if the height is workable .

Adjust the Calmps/ shelf height until you find the ideal height for you.
Build your booth to those dimensions. ( just read the other post and seen that Les Clarke covered this ...and yes a mirror is a great idea)

Get up and running with performing , and start earning some money doing it , and then treat yourself to the Mayfayre in a few years time when money is a bit easier.

And I am now going to put my tongue firmly in my cheek ( coz it helps me do the "Noel Coward" type of voice necessary for the next comment ).....
"If you are in America my Dear Boy , don't panic too much about getting everything 'right' ...just get on and get started with it all ...Im afraid over there they are unlikely to know or appreciate the difference !"


( as John Stoat would say "Puts on Tin-Hat and ducks for cover ..." )

Best Wishes Richard
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Re: Time to begin - On the other hand ....

Postby Chris » 10 Nov 2012, 13:11

I would reverse Richard's advice. If you have money to spend I think a trip to the May Fayre would be far more beneficial than buying puppets, whoever makes them. If you are outside the UK you have probably never seen a proper Punch & Judy Show. You will doubtless have access to brilliant puppetry but not to Punch. Being exposed to a great variety of Punchmen and Punch shows in one place on one day gives a real opportunity to catch the disease. This is what the May Fayre uniquely offers. Also you will return home with renewed enthusiasm and a barrel load of new ideas.

Also you will see a variety of booths and styles, of puppets and props and sound equipment, with the opportunity to ask questions and view up-close. Thus when you do come to make or buy your puppets, or build or have built your booth you will have a much better idea of what you want and therefore spend your money or your time more wisely.

If you haven't the money to spend on either trips to Europe or buying puppets then the poor man's alternative would start with a good few hours detailed trawling Youtube. There's a wealth of Punch material good and bad to be found. There is a lot to be learned from both. And as for puppets then you'll have to buy second-hand, or make your own. That's how most Punchmen start. Get a kids' book on simple puppet making and have a go. Les is spot on when he suggests that almost any puppet can be used as the second character for rehearsal purposes. And the Punch show is built up of two puppet encounters isn't it? Unless of course you are endowed with a third hand.

Also I am dubious of the wisdom of rehearsing with a mirror. A mirror is good for discovering pleasing angles, and effective moves, but should not be used for rehearsal. You won't have a mirror in performance so you must learn to act your puppets without being able to see them from the front. An alternative system is to video your rehearsal sessions (but don't use a monitor) and then analyse and learn from the playback.

I strongly endorse Richard's suggestion that you get a copy of John Alexander's "The Frame File", or better yet, the revised and much enlarged version "The Expanded Frame File". It is available from http://www.arcadypress.co.uk
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Re: Time to begin

Postby Richard Coombs » 10 Nov 2012, 14:15

Chris is right . I had forgotten the frame File was the first version of the seminal book.
I have the Expanded Frame File but had forgotten that was its title .

Cheers for the link too Chris , that will give Cood easier access to buying a copy.

When CvdC was over after the Mayfayre and came to visit me , I coined myself a new catch -phrase - while fitting out my wooden Summer booth with weird looking stands and rigs for supporting/ storing unusually shaped novelty puppets. "You wont find that in the Frame File"

Odd , almost organic shaped bits of plywood , each made for a very specific task

Perhaps if I get some time some photos will follow ...for comedy purposes only.

Richard

PS ..I actually do agree with Chris in that a trip to the Mayfayre would do exactly what he says...but if Cood IS in between work , then its likely to be an 'either-or' situiation ..and from a practical level, buying puppets and getting started will probably win , as performing for money will give him both a job and money to come over to the Mayfayre in a few years time ........whereas coming to the Mayfayre will leave him fired up to perform , but broke , and unable to buy puppets till he has saved up again ( he says he is not a maker )

Anyhoo whatever route ..good Luck with it Cood
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Re: Time to begin

Postby Chris » 10 Nov 2012, 18:25

As well as The Expanded Frame File Arcady Press also publish some exclusive Punch essays and leaflets as well as Magic and related material which is very interesting and only available from this website.
http://www.arcadypress.co.uk
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Re: Time to begin

Postby lesclarke » 11 Nov 2012, 11:29

Yes Chris, as far as using a mirror goes, it is more useful in checking out how things look when running through a move or series of moves, than actually rehearsing in front of it, and for the new performer it is their first chance to get an idea of how their figures appear to an audience, and hopefully avoid droopy heads etc, although this is easier spotted on a video playback.
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Re: Time to begin

Postby Chris » 11 Nov 2012, 12:02

Another tip is to set your camera at the eye height of a seated child, not at playboard height which is the way most videos are shot. This allows you to judge how your show looks to the kids. Are your puppets looking at them, or over their heads (eyeline - the secret of good puppetry) and also, are you holding the puppets high enough? The audience (the kids) should see more than the head and shoulders of the puppet even if this does mean than a standing adult sees a flash of sleeve. I know at least one Punch Prof who is highly critical if a youtube video of a Punch Show reveals the showman's sleeve. He's wrong! It isn't the performer who is at fault it is the level of the camera. I think of this everytime I see the PJF inquisitors with their clipboards judging candidates for full membership. They always seem to do this from a standing position, while the audience is seated. They can neither see what the children see nor hear what the children hear. Of course, it's not really about the children is it?
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Re: Time to begin

Postby lesclarke » 11 Nov 2012, 17:33

Choosing a set of figures is a lot down to personal taste, if buying them I'd go along with the idea of assembling a 'mixed' set from different makers, if only because it gives a bit more variation in their appearance.

Newcomers, obviously aspiring to perform a good show, often seem to think they can only perform a good show with top-of-the range figures. For what you would pay for a Brian Clarke Punch, in the USA (still good value) one could get a handful of perhaps tatty, perhaps cruder figures, possibly papier mache. With this handful you could be on your way to creating several scenes, trying out 'bits of business', learning the skill of glove puppetry, and the skill of being an entertainer.

In addition, by renovating/mending/adapting figures you are acquiring much need skills for the future, also as previously mentioned if you don't have a particular skill, do you know someone who might?

To offer an parallel based on cycling, it has caught you imagination, you are keen to be out there on the roads or trails, you believe you need/want the best equipment, so you have invested quite a chunk of cash in a top spec front wheel ..but for a while at least, you are going nowhere!

As 'someone' said, "It's not about the bike" (yes, I know he's been discredited, but he was right about that)
...and it's not about the figures.

I understand the attraction of top-of-the range figures, I'm sure a good set of figures will give you more confidence, but like bikes, figures do not 'do the work' that's down to the performer.

BASIC BIKE + TRAINING = GET UP BIG HILL and you may even become a CYCLIST who can then get the best out of a TOP SPEC BIKE.

TOP SPEC BIKE + NO TRAINING = FAIL WHEN ATTEMPT HILL, TOP SPEC BIKE sits in shed.

In the future to someone watching you early shows the appearance of the figures is not as important as you think, and for you as the performer, having the figures fit your hands, be well balanced and easy to get on and off is far more important.
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Re: Time to begin

Postby CvdC » 11 Nov 2012, 22:59

As much as I see the point you are making with the bicycle analogy Les I have to say my experience with bicycles is a bit different.
I had given up on riding bicycles as I am not fit enough. Then a friend of mine bought an expensive touring bike. I had a ride. I could not believe the difference between that and my own cheap one. I realised it wasn't me but the bike that was the problem. A poorly maintained, cheap piece of junk compared to a well engineered and finely tuned bicycle was an astounding difference. So now I have given up because I can't afford such a bike and feel much fitter as a result.

So to apply the analogy back to puppetry I would suggest that puppets can be a problem if they are crudely modelled (ugly or too "artistic"), the heads are too heavy and large that they make it difficult to hold up and get in the way of props, costumes that don't allow the fingers to clearly show arm movements, hands that are too big they make it awkward to hold the baby or sticks, and the gloves are too short and poorly made they come apart. A good puppet would make it easier.

Having said that I agree with you as I myself have noticed ( now that I have seen a lot of Punch and Judy shows) that once any puppet is moving and being performed it always looks a lot better than when you hold it in your hand or look at a photo of it, so it isn't the most important thing to worry about when starting up. But it helps to have a good puppet nevertheless.

Perhaps a good puppet would be one that you put on your hand and you can manipulate it without being physically aware of it while performing? It is definitely all about what the audience sees. Puppetry is exactly like magic tricks in that way I guess.
A good puppet springs to life. You see this with well made marionettes. They look lifeless hanging up but when you hold them the arms begin to twitch, the head will move and with just the slightest shake of the controls they are alive. With a glove puppet you carve, you paint and sew the costume and when it finally gets onto your hand it is a character, it immediately performs.

Interestingly I have noticed that when I make a puppet I can appreciate it to a certain degree but when someone else holds it and moves it and I am the audience, it is then it becomes something beyond a thing I have made and has a life. I like that.
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Re: Time to begin

Postby lesclarke » 12 Nov 2012, 00:12

Yes Chris, we can all forget that puppets are best judged by our audience when they are actually in action, so all that neat paintwork we aim for and gives us satisfaction as a maker is ultimately irrelevant to the viewer.
Sat some 15 to 30 feet away, they are more impressed by the 'life' we put into them.

It works both ways with bikes, yes a top spec bike rides noticably better, but even a basic bike can be 'magic'!
My analogy was more about one puppet being equivalent to a wheel, not a complete bike
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Re: Time to begin

Postby lesclarke » 12 Nov 2012, 20:01

Another alternative way of working is hands-to-side, if you have the reach of course!
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Re: Time to begin

Postby Cood123 » 12 Nov 2012, 21:22

Wow, there is still a piece of my mind saying "these are the people you've been watching on youtube, and they're giving you advice" Maybe it's because I'm American but I'm still trying to fathom that.

The good news is that I came into a new job, and I'll be making money again very soon. I've been thinking very seriously about going to May Fair, and I'm going to try and be there.

I'll buy a copy of "The Frame File" as soon as I can. Thanks for showing it to me.

I'm also going to try and carve again at carving a few of the puppets on my own, but I'm not sure on a few things. Does the kind of wood matter? And I'm wonder what your opinions on power tools are.
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