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Puppetry at the Mullum Music Festival

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While some larger festivals in the Australian music scene are struggling and some even cancelling, it seems that it’s the time for boutique events to shine.

According to Glenn Wright, director of Mullum Music Festival, ticket sales this year are up 20 per cent. And the reason, he believes, is affordability, accessibility and the trust that has been built up with the programming. People know it’s going to be interesting.

Opening night at the Mullum Music Festival is Mullum’s ‘premier night of nights’. The night features artists coming from Iowa, Berlin, Slovenia, Gambia, Sydney, Melbourne, and also some very special guests.

This year also features the dark theatrical genius of Slovenian puppeteer and performance artist Teatro Matita.

Matita, can you tell me how you came to be a musician, puppeteer, actor, workshop organiser, and academic? It just goes naturally – when you meet many people through jam sessions, suddenly you start organising jams, making arrangements, bands… and become a festival organiser yourself. When you do puppetry on your studies, you want to make another step – you want your students to connect with other puppeteers as well as musicians.

What is a typical day for you? There is no typical day. I am at present north of France; yesterday I was still in Vienna; a few days ago in London and after tomorrow, Russia. Today I am directing a show for children; yesterday I was playing three different puppet shows and adapting to an Austrian audience; in few days I’ll try a show in Russian, make a concert and go to play for orphans.

What is the thesis you are working on for your doctorate? It is about connection, music and puppet theatre. Puppet theatre is the most mobile, flexible, broad form of ‘contextual’ art. Only puppet theatre can include all forms of art: painting, acting, physical dance… At the same time, music is the most ‘sincere’ art – the most direct way of language, of communication. It is the most ‘physical’ art, when puppet theatre is the most ‘distant’, contextual, using illusion for mirroring reality – that is closest to music.

What role do you see something like puppetry and theatre has in this digital age? It is the beginning of social rituals, that were connecting with symbols of puppets and masks. Puppets have the ability to adapt, to change forms. Puppets are cheap, puppets are wide; you cannot arrest them if they say something wrong; you cannot judge them, even if they say truth. Puppets are our alter egos, and can have healing effects on society.

How do you want your performances to affect people? I want to make people reflect, not necessarily be pleased.

Do you still see a vital role for mythology and story? Yes. Well, the mythology connected to Now. It is one of the senses of culture that is the supporting base of art. It is not based on ‘pop society’, where each artist presents themselves as the whole culture. Where one person thinks, he is more important in the generation. It is the place of consensus, where art evolution comes to the root. And mythology is part of that root, which survived thousands of years and exited in the western world a few decades ago. That is scary. Mythology is not vital. It is one of the aspects that made the mirroring effect. And in this sense it is very close to principles of puppetry. That’s why mythology and puppetry are closely connected.

Are you influenced by Living Theatre, Theatre of the Absurd, Theatre of Cruelty – or do you have your own personal distinct theatrical and philosophical manifesto? It is a mixture of commedia dell’arte, Theatre of Absurd, Bread and Puppets and… hmm, folk music? Surely Beckett, Brecht, Craig… I don’t have one idol. Definitely, art is not to be separated from society. It is – like Bread & Puppets said, for kitchens. Art is like bread. Art is cheap. Also, it is here to provoke, to be oppressive. It is here to talk. Art is here, to take the microphone and to talk with its untruthful, irrational intuition. No, I do not have my manifesto. I’m just a musician when I play puppets, and puppeteer when I play accordion.

What are the themes that you work with? What characters do you use? I started with Pulcinella. I went over different abstract, nonsense topics, fairytales, classics, and now I am coming back. One of my next shows is going to be a Slovenian character, Pavliha. Primitive art. That is my interest. Also ‘happy bones’, which I perform only with real objects – bones, are primitive. I like this.

How do you work up a performance? Is street performance still a vital part of creating an act? Creating on the street is vital. It is an essential part of my workshops to send students out. To try to communicate on the street, in pubs, in shopping centres with people who would never want to have anything to do with art.

When I work on a show, I start from what I have. Site specific. Where am I? Do I have any money? How many hands will manipulate it? Then I go to music and rhythm, starting with steps, impulses reactions, situations. At the end comes composition. Gluing different parts together. Analytic principle is closer to me than one where you get text (storyboard) and than make the story after it. I take the story from the end and beginning and then fill it up with nonsense.

How do you make a puppet show a musical composition? Every show is musical composition. Only thing is that I base on it most of the show. Mostly there is not music, or it is strictly connected to the animation of puppets. That why it is so much harder for actors in my shows: they have to think of situations in rhythm.

Get your tix and kick off your Mullum Music Festival in style! Mullum Music Festival 21–24 November, 2013

For tickets & info go to www.mullummusicfestival.com | Festival Hotline is 02 6684 6195.

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