Profile and Video: Trouble Puppet's RIDDLEY WALKER, a Work in Progress
by Michael Meigs
Connor Hopkins and the gang at Trouble Puppet Theatre Company invited their e-list followers over to the Salvage Vanguard Theatre studio on two Saturday nights, January 8 and 15, to get a look at their works in progress. The evening began with The Red Tree, one of several pieces developed in Caroline Reck's "Object Theatre Workshop" and moved to several scenes the company has roughed out for the production of Riddley Walker scheduled for September - October of this year.
Hopkins himself served as a relaxed interlocutor. The 1980 novel by Russell Hoban (published, curiously enough, by the Indiana University Press) is set in a distant future. Civilization has reverted to a medieval existence of clans, poverty and myth making. Hopkins warned us that Hoban writes the tale in an imagined future jargon that initially may appear obscure. "Read it out loud," he suggested. "And after the first five pages or so, you'll have no trouble at all."
Isolated clans live in part by scavaging metal from the wreck of earlier civilizations. There is no written communication. Traveling puppet shows present versions of traditional stories. Each clan has a "teller" -- someone who interprets the meaning of the performances.
Using puppetry to tell a story including puppets is a challenge. The video below, recently posted by the company on YouTube, shows the company's approach. They establish the principal characters in "bunraku" style -- manipulated directly by visible puppeteers -- and do the puppets-within-the-story as hand puppets, Punch and Judy style.
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