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Classic kids’ tale gets new life in Babor— puppet show

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: {J}

The age-old children’s tale, The Gingerbread Man, will come to life for the Baboró Festival when puppeteer Miriam Lambert presents her heart-warming show aimed at children from four to eight years.

For the show in Druid, Miriam remains faithful to the story of the freshly baked biscuit who escapes from the oven and outwits all those who try to catch and eat him . . . until he meets a hungry fox!

“I’m using the story but it’s in an unusual way, because it’s visual,” explains Miriam. “Language and dialogue aren’t all that important but the ending is the same.”

Miriam is a one-woman operation and has devised a puppet booth that lets her operate at two levels, allowing her to move her characters around freely.

She doesn’t use scenery or a backdrop so everything is done to black, putting all the focus on her puppets.

If anybody knows how to make and operate these creatures, it’s Miriam. As a member of the famous Lambert puppet family she was a principal puppeteer, deviser and designer with the family’s puppet theatre in Monkstown, Dublin for over 30 years. She also worked on the legendary RTÉ series, Wanderly Wagon which was created by her father Eugene. And she manipulated and voiced the red-headed puppet Bosco during in its early years on RTÉ.

But then she left the country to get away from the busi

ness, she laughs. It wasn’t that Miriam disliked her family or puppetry; she just wanted a break.

She lived in the Netherlands for eight years and even there, she did a bit of puppeteering, being exposed to different styles and learning new techniques.

Eventually Miriam returned totally to theatre, although initially as an administrator, becoming a founder member of the Dublin International Puppet Festival. But performing was in her blood and five years ago she set up her own company.

When creating a show, Miriam begins by using a technique known as ‘storyboarding’, where she makes drawings of how the show will unfold. That’s vital, because she has to work out every move that the puppets will make, including getting them on and off stage.

She makes her puppets to suit either her right or left hand, and knows almost instinctively which hand to select for her creations. “You’d feel that something works or that it doesn’t.”

For instance, there’s a chicken in The Gingerbread Man, which is built around a glove with head, arms and legs that move, and “it’s definitely going on my right hand”.

There’ll also be a goat and, of course, a fox as well as her two signature puppets Pick and Boo, little white gloves with white balls for heads. They are not connected to the actual Gingerbread Man story, but they introduce the show and are integral to her performance. Pick is adventurous and outgoing, Boo is shy and intellectual.

They have their own language, ‘gobbledygook”, making sounds that are happy and sad, while adding to the visuals.

Miriam currently mostly uses hand and glove puppets, although she has ideas for the future which would see her combine gloves with marionettes.

In The Gingerbread Man, Miriam appears herself, as the humanette who bakes the runaway man – her first time ever appearing in one of her shows.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy

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A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.

 

For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Ruby ready to rock again and Bob is worth a big flutter in Gold Cup

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 06-Mar-2013

New edge to Galway hurling championship title pursuit

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A battle of talent and the ability to pull in public votes

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 11-Mar-2013

Here is a question. And there is no holiday or grand prize for getting the answer. But can anyone name the people who have won The Voice of Ireland and what has become of them?

Over across the water in the UK they have The X Factor and while I hate the concept of it, it has produced a few stars even though they don’t last long in the whole scheme of things.

But The Voice of Ireland seems to generate false excitement with the winner ending up become more anonymous than they already were. And it is costing families a fortune in the process.

While the programme is a ratings winner, strangely, it has resulted in those getting through to the final stages investing huge amounts of money in the hope that they will receive enough votes to get through to the next stages.

So, suddenly, it is not about the voice or the talent involved, it is all about votes and who the participants can convince to pledge their support for them. So it is obvious that talent goes out the window.

It means that someone with half a talent could realistically win the whole thing if they generated enough support behind them. From now on, the judges will be taken out of the equation and it will be left to the public to generate income for some phone operator.

Those who get through to the live performances have to engage in a massive publicity campaign in an effort to win votes which makes this whole effort a pure sham. It is no longer about their ability and just an effort to win appeal.

While the initial process does involve some vetting of the acts, now it becomes a general election type exercise in which the most popular will win the competition and the judges will have no say whatsoever.

It is a bit like the recent Eurosong in which the judging panel across the country voted for their favourite song, which incidentally was the best of a very bad lot, but then this was overturned by the public who chose a relatively crap song to represent us.

But again, this was all down to convincing the public about who to vote for rather than having any bearing on the quality on offer. There are times that genuine talent becomes overlooked because of the need to extract money from the voting public.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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