the curtain

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the curtain

Postby CvdC » 31 May 2009, 03:58

Should you have two curtains that slide across the stage opening here is the routine used by the Petrushka show seen at the May Fair.
The curtains need to slide easily and each curtain needs to be wide enough to slide across the entire width of the stage.

A few swazzle squeaks and Petrushka knocks at the curtain from behind, apparently trying to find the gap in the closed curtain. Finally he opens each side of the curtain and greets the audience by waving and clapping his hands.

Meanwhile one side of the curtain closes itself. Petrushka closes it and continues clapping his hands having solved the problem. The curtain closes itself again. Petrushka closes it but as he slides the one side of the curtain open the other side closes the opening. Petrushka looks a bit surprised but when he opens it again the other side closes.

Petrushka starts to get frustrated. When he opens one side he bangs it hard to make sure it stays open. But this does no good. So this goes on for as long as it remains funny.

After a few tries he ties each side of the curtains with cords. having solved the problem he sits on the stage, his legs over the edge. He greets the audience again and sneezes a few times, falling backwards into the booth.

Time was about a minute and a half. Worked well and was effective to establish the character.
Last edited by CvdC on 31 May 2009, 12:28, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Chris » 31 May 2009, 10:22

This is a well established gag, the recalcitrant front tabs, and it is a pity it isn't seen more often these days. It particularly appeals to me because it is essentially puppetry - it couldn't be done as effectively on the live stage. The funniest version I have seen was that of Martin Bridle at the start of his show. As I recall he did it with the clown rather than Punch. He used corner drapes rather than draw tabs.
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Postby CvdC » 31 May 2009, 12:13

When you see these non english speaking shows, and I assume when one performs to non english speaking audiences as well, it must serve to emphasise the non verbal puppetry aspects of a performance. Without an intelligible word spoken we have the essence of the character established in just this one initial routine. The persistence, the rising frustration, the over reaction, the gloating when success is achieved and then the one further gag.
I agree it is essential puppetry. In this case it starts off the show well by establishing Petrushka's character and sets the tone for what follows. I guess it is basically the same thing as the monkey and mop routines.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nivy6xsDZhg
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Postby James » 03 Jun 2009, 18:35

Good to see the video Chris, thanks, even though I was set up next to them I hardly saw the show. Such a busy day!
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Postby Chris » 04 Jun 2009, 21:21

I haven't the full routine, but here's a snippet of Martin's curtains:-
<center><a href="http://www.punchandjudy.com/videotheatre/videotheatrebridlecurtaingag.htm" target="_blank"><img src="images/sausagelink.gif" border="0"></a></center>
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Postby Peter » 05 Jun 2009, 08:35

It was good to see the snippet of Martin's routine.
I think I prefer it.
It's easy to forget what excellent Punchmen we have in this country.
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Postby CvdC » 06 Jun 2009, 15:55

To me they seem to be much of a muchness. Peter I would be interested to know why you prefer Martin's routine. Or are you just being a little bit chauvinistic? :roll:
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Postby Chris » 06 Jun 2009, 17:56

I'm surprised you judge them much of a muchness Chris - especially since you have only this tiny snippet of Martin's routine to judge from.

The main difference in my eyes was that Martin's routine made me laugh. The Petrouska didn't. It was slick, and mildly amusing, I grant you. But I could never agree they were much of a muchness.
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Postby Peter » 06 Jun 2009, 20:57

chau·vin·ism (shv-nzm)
n.
1. Militant devotion to and glorification of one's country; fanatical patriotism.
2. Prejudiced belief in the superiority of one's own gender, group, or kind:

Which of these definitions did you mean Chris?
I thought I was just expressing a preference and an admiration of Martin's show which I have seen many times over the years and enjoyed.
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Postby CvdC » 06 Jun 2009, 22:09

One of the reasons I like to access this message board is that I have learned a lot over the last 10 years. I still have more to learn .. from what people say, watching videos and looking at all sorts of shows.
So I was wondering why you prefer it. I do not mean to be nit picky or provacative when I ask this. I am genuinely interested in the basis on which the opinion is based.


The gibe about chauvinism was simply a reference to
"It's easy to forget what excellent Punchmen we have in this country." and the emphasis you put on "this". I thought it was funny.
Given this site is devoted to that excellence, looking at foreign shows is not forgetting this at all. Often it reminds us of it.

I just thought that the absence of English makes us focus on the puppetry rather than what is said. When you understand the language we can easily forget it. For instance, watch the video Chris posted with the sound off.

The Petrushka show was entertaining and yet had very little dialogue and when you look at it closely it is very simple. The simplicity is, to me, interesting.

Like the Italian Pulcinella show it does have a lot of rhythmic stick fighting that I haven't seen in English Punch for some reason. I wonder why?

Interestingly if you look at the same Petrushka performed for a Russian audience it seems to move along a lot slower than it did at Covent Garden.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSSiTMxGor8
Last edited by CvdC on 06 Jun 2009, 23:14, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby CvdC » 06 Jun 2009, 23:05

Here is my analysis of the Martin Bridal routine minus any reference to dialogue.
If you compare it with that above you will see that the point is not to pit one performance over another but to find what works best in each. I know it may be overly analytical in approach but it is how I work.

Martin Bridle’s curtain routine
Curtains close.
While Joey is addressing the audience one of the curtains comes down behind him. Joey turns and looks at it. Note that he then looks briefly back to the audience. He goes behind the curtain. His head pokes out from behind the curtain, which is visually effective. He then disappears. The curtains attempt to be sorted out by each side going up and down alternatively in a sort of little dance (refer David Wilde’s intro). He then pokes up from below the stage to see how it looks. This is always surprising for the audience. He pops back up on stage to continue. The other side of the curtain falls down. When Joey happens to notice he reacts by leaping backwards and hitting the side of the stage. Bouncing slightly to emphasise the impact.
Again he jumps behind the curtain and pokes his head from behind. Repeating visual gags is always effective (But do not over do it). The curtains sort themselves as before. Show continues.
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Postby johnstoate » 06 Jun 2009, 23:14

I think that I'll just make passing reference to my version on the routine, where the curtains are mounted on 'velcro' and pins, and are supposed to collapse spectacularly onto the performers :roll: -Worked brilliantly in practice repeatedly - Then came Mayfest!!! -Murphy's law yet again :twisted:
But, I have to admit, it is visual comedy, language is superfluous to the humour.
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Postby Chris » 06 Jun 2009, 23:24

I suspect that the modern Petruska show is very different from the "traditional" (ie pre Soviet) show. I think it has been re-invented, and has borrowed from existing forms in other countries. In the same way the modern Pulcinella show is a creation. The Pulcinella from which Punch developed was not a central character show. It has become this since Punch broke away from his marionette personage and developed his own show.

Possibly the reason that there is rhythmic stick fighting in the Petrouska show is because they too have seen the performances of Italian Gatto - a musician who has developed a show for adult folk music enthusiasts which uses the puppets as percussion instruments rather than actors in a play. I think this particular form of Pulcinella has limited connection to the Pulcinella of the Commedia.

We are lucky with Punch that in Britain there has been a virtual unbroken development for over 300 years. Poor Petrouska has not been so lucky. He was very much a half forgotten tradition even when Effimova was writing, and then during the Soviet era there was no place for that kind of puppetry - the solo virtuoso. Puppetry was a co-operative communal activity and the only worthwhile puppetry was team puppetry.

It is great that Russian puppeteers are re-building Petrouska in the old fairground tradition.
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Postby Chris » 06 Jun 2009, 23:33

I know it may be overly analytical in approach


Indeed. Laugh more, analyse less.
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Postby CvdC » 07 Jun 2009, 11:14

I think you may have hit on a problem I have in life generally Chris.
These things happen after 10 years.
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