From where I was sitting, the technical proficiency on display was almost a secondary consideration. Make that: a given. The makeup session at the Scène Nationale in Albi yesterday held several of Graulhet’s puppeteers and their children in thrall before the performance. The instrumental and vocal performances had a musical composer’s full attention; I could tell by the expression on her face. The children laughed in all the right places. Once they got the hang of the show, the adults applauded in the right breaks.
What held my attention – apart from the show itself, and audience reactions to it? Overall effects and minute details. What made that soldier in the Monkey King’s retinue the best monkey in the lot? The looseness in his gait (knees, wrists, everything up and downstream from there). The woman interpreting the Nine-Tailed Fox: her stupendous handling of the sticks thrown at her would draw applause in any case. What made her special for me was the way she held her neck and the expression in her eyes. She knew all her moves; didn’t have to think about them; she could be the supernatural fox.
Loose. How do I react when I’m not uptight? Not defensive? What is my natural response when I’m not burdening myself with self-importance? Playing. Being the character. Then, being that other character, and letting the fun happen. The tricky place, right there. Trusting: the stage, the props, the technical crews, your own prep, the other players. From there, stepping out and letting it happen.
What about glitches? Spotted a few in yesterday’s performance. Yes, even at an evening with the Peking Opera, a ribbon may come undone or a stick may get dropped. How many people noticed? Does it matter? The jugglers went on juggling and the acrobats went on tumbling.
The art of comedy. Apart from the right pacing, the crucial aspect to making it work? Leaving yourself behind in the dressing room. Oh yes: I’m still learning, no doubt about it.