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Ginger: Master of Puppets

Normally we review the shows. This week we turn the tables as Ginger Wildheart plays a puppet theatre in Norwich and he reviews the venue and audience: “I’m a lucky motherf**ker…”

There’s a palpable sense of history that thwacks you right in your dormant senses on walking into the renovated church that is The Puppet Theatre. Beautifully carved mannequins hang in a proud line above the bar of the 300 year old building, but it isn’t until you’ve spent an age marvelling at these weird, beautiful and sometimes fabulously grotesque creations, all hand carved on these very premises, dangling as if poised to spring into life as soon as the humans have left the building, that you notice that you’re actually standing on dead bodies. Tombstones set into the floor, spanning centuries, housing the corpses of previous inhabitants of this medieval wonderland (one of 35 churches in Norwich, more than any other City in Europe).

I’m fucking blown away. My head is in the shed. It takes hours to compose myself and adjust to the job at hand, the reason that I’m part of this incredible setting in the first place. 

I’ve got a gig to do. 

It’s the first live music performance that the Puppet Theatre has put on, and we’re flying by the skin of our collective arses to make this work. Which, for the most part it does. Apart from when I start talking about ghosts during the show and the monitors inexplicably pack up. No reason, no loose cables, they just quit and revive some ten minutes later when I change the subject. I take it as all part of this unique experience.

As the tiny dressing room is currently being re-floored, we are given the workshop as tonight's backstage area, a massive room full of puppets in cases and bizarre branch effigies with mirrors hiding behind them. Even the dressing room is distinctly otherworldly. We're not on the rock circuit now, Toto. 

Everywhere you look there is magic. I feel 6 years old. I doubt I will ever play a place more amazing than this again.

I instantly fell in love with the Ice Queen puppet (just out of shot), which was made by a famous, sadly deceased model maker. So they're building me a replica.

Hoping to find some pornography. Found a monster instead. Fair deal.

Thank God we set up this Songs & Words tour ourselves, based around a desire to provide an unforgettable evening in settings that the audience would never normally venture. I cherry-picked each venue based on heritage, architecture, history, location and general weirdness (as well as fixed comfy seating, wheelchair access and a full time bar). No way would an agent have been concerned about such attention to detail, not to this obsessive degree. But I wanted this experience to be something very special indeed, for the audience and for myself. And with every new show on this tour, our tireless groundwork and tattered patience is paid back in diamonds. 

Gallery

All photography: Paul Bayfield

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