Last month one of our founders, Peter Pullan, went along to see the double bill of ‘The Three Pigs and The Wolf’ and ‘Captain Grimey’, at the Puppet Theatre Barge.
It’s not often you find accessible puppet shows, let alone accessible puppet shows on a barge, so Peter has kindly written about his experience and how the appeal of puppetry applies to all ages.
“When I was young, my parents took me on seaside holidays and I would see the Punch & Judy shows on the beach but I could never understand a word of the lively conversation between the puppet characters. Likewise, in the days before subtitles on television, the adventures of Andy Pandy, Sooty, The Woodentops etc were alien worlds to me. Who would have thought that now in my seventies, I would discover the fun of a live puppet show? This was courtesy of the Puppet Theatre Barge moored for the summer on the River Thames at Richmond. They were offering a captioned performance of a double bill ‘The Three Pigs and The Wolf’ plus ‘Captain Grimey’.
“The auditorium on the barge was surprisingly spacious with a capacity of about 50 people and the captions for the shows appeared at the bottom of the stage area so it was easy to take in both stage and captions. The friendly staff showed us to our seats and we were relieved to find out we were not the only “older” people in the audience! The show was advertised as being suitable for age 3 – 8 but a variety of shows are offered for all age groups. Of course, as everyone knows, children’s stories and nursery rhymes often throw up elements of the macabre and it was difficult not to laugh when a huge fish bite off Captain Grimey’s leg!
“My deaf companion and I were able to follow the voices of the narrator and the puppet characters perfectly since the captions were outputted exactly on time and as a charming effect, an image of the character was displayed alongside the captions to show who was speaking at that moment. Sound effects such as the clock ticking were shown by an image of an alarm clock plus ‘Tick Tock’. Music was shown by an image of for example a drum or a flute with some musical notes indicating a rhythm. Occasionally the text was edited to maintain ease of access for younger children and I could sometimes guess the missing words but sometimes I would not hear them at all and the flow of the dialogue was interrupted so I would urge caution on editing.
“We were delighted to have been able to enjoy such a charming and funny afternoon thanks to the provision of captions for the performance. We would recommend these shows for d/Deaf and hard of hearing people of all ages. I could see them being a wonderful experience not only for d/Deaf children with hearing parents but also for hearing children with d/Deaf parents or grandparents. It is a truly inclusive experience.”