home puppeteer wanted summer programme midweek mayhem winter programme walkabouts interactive fairies banqueting theatre tour come sing the musicals prices and discounts puppet makers contact 14 century authenticity flying dragon meet the dragons 2012/13 PANTO SEASON gallery messages only granny dragon's recipes how the songs were sung poster for musical 14c 17c & 21c stages Llelowyn comes of age
14 century authenticity
In search of true authenticity…“Historical references to medieval puppeteers are hard to find and even harder to verify. Authenticity is open to all to interpret using what information is available and we can only strive for our very best efforts.” Stacey McLennanIn his book ‘The History of the English Puppet Theatre‘ George Speaight discusses the medieval performances of itinerate entertainers, often including extended family members, who toured from one court or hall to another, often hoping for a whole winters work with one noble household, so that they were not travelling in bad weather. These players would offer Mysticals, Morality plays, comedies and irreverent offerings, telling local anecdotal stories and retelling old tales from history or myth, all depending on the circumstances of the event.The Puppeteer - George Speaight made the assumption that the puppeteer gave similar performances, he had thoroughly researched the subject and his learned assumption is worth listening to as a fair ‘interpretation using what information is available’.Lady Katherine, Duchess of Suffold (Suffolk), paid 6s 8d (about 34p!) for 2 male puppeteers to play at her summer event held in August 1561 . This is one of the earliest actual references to payments made to itinerate puppeteers.There are references to bands of travelling entertainers, who amongst their other types of offerings, included poppets! And another reference to Perrinet Sanson in 1408, travelling around France, he had with him his family, a bear, a horse, a nanny goat and his puppets, and is noted as playing a drum and trumpet to announce the start of performances. The Puppets - Very little information is available. It seems that glove puppets and stick puppets were popular in England, whereas marionettes were used in Europe but are seldom mentioned in England, there seems to be no reason behind this and evidence is scanty. There are no precise records about the materials used, what references there are include carved wood, ‘cloth’, leather and linen. The method of baking linen, flour and water to make masks for mummers seems an appropriate skill to use for larger heads of puppet along with carved wood for smaller heads. Flour paste was easily made ‘on the road’ by travelling puppeteers. Papier mache was not an option for the 15th century, paper was too precious to find it’s way into the hands of the pauper puppeteer! (An early mention of papier mache is in 1740 where Francesco Saverio Quadrio writes about papier mache heads of Marionetts.) Clothing for puppets would have been wool, silk, velvets or linen, and there is evidence of coloured leathers being used for costumes of travelling performers. Colours for paints were drawn from natural materials, oxides, minerals, plants and even snails and insects, the poor puppeteer would not have been able to afford expensive colours, blue, for instance could be very expensive, but lesser blues could be obtained from the old favourite ‘woad’ (Isatis tinctoria) and dyer’s knotweed (Indigofera suffruticosa). Cluny Museum has, stored away, a medieval puppet with a moving mouth. Leather hinging appears to be the method most likely to have been used but in the absence of any facts, it is hard to be sure.Costume - Illustrations are very vague, jongluer clothing, most colourful to attract audiences, close to jester clothing, the only reference which is dubious, seems to be an early mention of Motley, 'and his woman worn a gown of strips of many different hues'. If puppeteers were lucky enough to have the sponsorship of a Nobleman, he may provide costume for the players. Plays - Morality Plays were the next step from Mystical Plays of the early middle ages, they offered the Church a way to guide the watchers to better morals. As many of the fairs and festivals where run on Church owned lands, the plays had to fit what the Church expected and wanted. In later Medieval times troupes of entertainers were offering more irreverent plays, still often based on Roman and Greek mythology, but also new stories evolved telling tales of battles and heroic deeds, Robin Hood for instance and contemporary news items. Comedy was brought back into fashion, along with the old hearthside stories based well back into Jutesh, Viking and Saxon history. Stories such as Little Red Riding Hood, commonly thought to be the property of The Brothers Grimm after they wrote versions, notably one version in 1857, actually originated in hearthside stories in Europe possibly in the dark ages, and is directly link to the great Norse poem Elder Edda and told by French and Italian peasants as ‘The False Grandmother’. It seems to have been a popular story told in many different countries, from England, Scandinavia, Germanic countries right the way through Asia, where even Vietnam has a version!George and the Dragon originates even further back in history, to many ancient cultures, the oldest probably being Asia Minor, where the ‘Sky Father’ (God) rode a horse across the sky, protecting everyone from such creatures as serpent. These were the types of stories that theatre groups and puppeteers would latch on to and adapt for their performances. It seems the entertainers natural right to be able to adapt any story to fit what seems right for the time!Stages - There are a few illustrations of stages/booths. Two come from a beautifully illuminated manuscript ‘Li Romans d'Alixandre‘, where the booths form part of the boarder illustrations. In each case the booth is tall enough for someone to stand in and move behind with ease. Both appear to have a wooden front with fortress style crenulated towers at each end and an arched roof, one possibly of woven willow, the other of wood or canvas. However, it has to be remembered that these reference are only very small and the illuminator may have only ever seen one puppeteer’s stage, so although excellent reference, artists licence must be factored into reading them for authentic purposes. Another illustration shows only a hastily constructed cloth barrier.For those interested in Mr. PunchSorry, no, he is not medieval. He may have been the natural descendant of the ‘Lord of Misrule’, the mischief maker or the Court Jester, but his own history began in Italy during the 16th c. as man not a puppet, a jester or clown called Pulcinella. The character could be dressed in a mixture of peasant clothing or feathers, a big floppy hat and if the actor playing the part had a big nose, all the better! He was seen in plays where he could cause chaos and make the audience laugh and laugh. The character was popular, he became Punchinello in England. Hunch backs were always deemed figures of fun and so Punchinello developed a hunch back! Then, of course, puppeteers wanted some of the action, and the traditional Punch and Judy show evolved, to what we now know by the 18th c. By the way, originally his wife was called Joan!
The replica stage of the Dragons of Wye-ten is based on the illustration in the boarders of the 14c manuscript, 'The Romancing of Alexander'.The stage stands just over 7' tall in the centre of the proscenium arch and is made of a wooden structure covered in natural canvas.The front puppet-bar has stylised crenellated towers at either end as shown in the illustration.There is space for two puppeteers to stand and perform
Two illustrations from the 14th century Romancing of Alexander clearly showing the proscenium arch style weused to design and replicate our puppet theatre, courtesy of the Bodleian Library
Our wardrobe includes this linen surcoat following our discovery of a notation referring to a jonguere performing in a market 'and his wife (woman?) wore a surcoat of many differing hues'
web design byFolly Pottery using
'ad astra per alia drago'motto ofthe Dragons of Wye-ten
To see all content, you will need the current version of Adobe Flash Player to view it.