Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Art of Puppetry

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Portobello Market exploded with sights of interesting antiques, smells of various cultural foods, and sounds of original music. Crowds bustled through the street and people would often stop suddenly after seeing an intriguing item or smelling a savory aroma. There were cuisines from around the world, such as French crepes and German bratwrusts. Vast amounts of antiques and trinkets were sold on the streets, from boxing gloves to old records to antique teapots, overall giving the stands an eclectic style. Throughout the market, various artistic performances and displays were showcased, including the Monkey Biz.

Tucked away from the busy market was the puppet show within a small park. Families with young children made their way into the park and prepared themselves from the show. The sight included a musician sitting, adjusting his instruments and two puppeteers standing behind a tropical background wearing all black. Talking ceased with the beginning notes of the guitar, replicating sounds similar to circus music.  The first act included two monkeys juggling, followed by various acts of a monkey on stilts, a monkey swinging, and finally a skeleton monkey. In the first act, the two monkeys mirrored each others juggling movements that amazed the crowd. Second was the monkey on stilts, who followed the movements similar to that of a human on stilts. The buildup tensions of balancing on the stilts, accompanied by the theatrical music, left the audience in suspension, but the monkey was able to successfully move across the stage. The monkey swinging from the trapeze brought a new element of difficulty as the puppeteer had to keep the constant motion of swinging back and forth while still performing tricks with the monkey. The last act and my personal favorite was the skeleton monkey. As the monkey came onto the stage, the musician played spooky music that brought a daunting feeling to the act. The monkey was motionless on the floor, but then upbeat music began to play and the monkey slowly began to rise and danced with the music.
All of the elements of music, puppets and props, and the puppeteers brought a professional and creative approach to the art of puppetry beyond a children’s play.
The music accompanied the play with the use of the harmonica, guitar, and accordion. Throughout the show, the musician used minor and major notes, dramatic pauses, and tempo as the indication for the mood of a particular moment. The music was most prevalent during the last act with the skeleton monkey. The slow tempo represented the lifeless form, but as the music quickened, as did the monkey’s actions, which gave the monkey life. Also, the puppets themselves were beyond a children’s toy. Intricate details and delicacy of the monkeys brought them into an art form. Interweaving of the strings allowed the puppets to move with the slightest pull on the strings. With the abundance of strings, the puppeteers were able to achieve precise and specific movements. Beyond the puppets were the props that accompanied the monkeys. Without the stilts, trapeze, and seesaw, the atmosphere would be lacking a circus mood. They also allowed the monkeys to be life-like with their movements. Finally, the puppeteers masterfully crafted the technique, as their motions were fluid and graceful. During complicated routines, the two puppeteers moved one puppet with perfect timing and coordination to achieve a flawless performance. Overall, the show provided insight into the art form of puppetry.

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