They call it puppet love

Harrow Times: Director Amelia Bird has designed the show and made the puppets Director Amelia Bird has designed the show and made the puppets

Silent cinema swept the board at the Oscars on Sunday night as The Artist won five of the major categories including best picture, best actor and best director. Now, audiences can treat themselves to Gomito Productions wordless, comic love story, The Alchemystorium at Trestle Arts Base.

Director Amelia Bird hopes the success of The Artist will encourage people to explore other non-speaking artforms.

“The silent aspect of the show comes from the fact that it’s a love story,“ says Amelia. “There are so many words spoken about love that it’s really hard not to fall into clichés. So I decided to create an emotional response without words – to make people think less but feel more.“

Employing physical comedy, puppetry and striking visuals, the show explores the delights of falling in love for the first time. For some audience members, the experience will also be sensual as they get to enjoy a refreshing cuppa along with the performance.

Amelia explains that the action all takes place within a mobile coffee cart.

“The set folds out and things pop out of it and it spins around in front of people. The actors really make the coffee and deliver it to audience members as part of the service, but they are unwittingly engaged in a voodoo love ritual. Every night someone gets engaged and someone gets the phone number of another person in the audience – it’s very romantic.“

There are so many words spoken about love that it’s really hard not to fall into clichés. So I decided to create an emotional response without words

Amelia Bird

Personally, I’d rather just have a little chocolate dusting to top my cappuccino but this sell-out hit of the Edinburgh Fringe 2011 appeals to a broad age group, even though the publicity warns it contains ’comic sex scenes’.

“There’s this really silly, comedy strip routine where the actor ends up standing there in these grey, baggy long johns,“ explains Amelia. “Children as young as five have been to see it because it’s all very innocent and full of universal humour. The best way to describe it is it’s like The Muppets; fully engaging for adults without it being too complicated or patronising.“

The story centres on three clowns who live in the coffee cart.

“They are very sweet and don’t know anything of the world," says Amelia. "Two are female and one male and when two of them fall in love it creates an issue. It’s really playful and I really wanted to work with clown characters because they don’t appeal on an intellectual level but respond on an emotional level. As soon as they’re in love it’s all-consuming and they don’t have to deal with that in a naturalistic fashion.“

As well as directing her cast, Amelia creates the puppets and sets, a practice she began more than ten years ago when she set up her own theatre company after leaving sixth form college in Cambridge.

“I did a lot of sculpture at college and I’m always thinking about the visual and 3D elements of a show, including how a person moves and how they might be seen from every side. Our shows are very collaborative; the actors don’t just turn up and get presented with the show, we made it together and our combined senses are very important to the process.“

The Alchemystorium comes to Trestle Arts Base, Russet Drive, St Albans on Sunday, March 4 at 2.30pm. Details: 01727 850950, www.gomito.co.uk

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