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PINKS 2014 - #5!

Nov 8/9: PINKS #5 (Penang INternational Kids Storytelling Festival) Wow, this festival just gets better and better!  A strong line up saw me re-united with Uncle Fat (who I performed alongside in Chennai back in august) and the Whitman's Jen and Nat, and Mama Tok from KL and Kak Sue from Perak (who was at last year's festival) - as always, this festival promotes Malaysian tellers alongside their international counterparts (unlike Singapore's festival, which segregates the locals!)  Beatriz Montero from Spain, Alicia Dongjoo from Seoul, Mathew Friday from UK (via Guangzhou!) were also there and I was delighted to have my mentees (?) Hope and Jade, aka Gemia Foo and Abby L Kahei from Singapore, who made their international debut, perfoming in Mandarin.  Huge audiences throughout the day & the Sundfay workshops were were well supported too. Roll on PINKS 2015!!

Borneo Education Festival, Sandakan - Sabah
Sept 7/8: I made a fleeting two-day visit to this festival, the first of its kind, which featured a host of activities to promote English speaking in school, community colleges and the politeknic. The teacher participants in my workshop were certainly receptive, while the kids who competed in the storytelling section were surprisingly good - highly expressive in their telling, with plenty of eyer-contact and great humour too. I also had time to sample the great seafood (yummy!) and to visit the Borneo Sunbear Rehabilitation Centre (which is literally across the carpark from the more famous orang-utan centre at Sepilok) where I spent a happy hour watching four young sunbears and a family of pig-tailed macaques foraging for fruit and termites.

Under The Aalamaraam storytelling festival - Chennai
August 28th: I was delighted to accept Jeeva Raghunath's invvitation to join her and a terrific team of tellers in presenting this inaugural festival in Chennai.  There was
Margaret Read MacDonald, Wajuppa Tossa and Prasong (from Tahiland), Uncle Fat (Taiwan) Ariyo (Indonesia) Ng Kok Keong (Malaysia) and Kiran Shah (Singapore/Australia).  Over the two days of the festival, an astonishing 5000 kids came to see us tell.  Thanks to Jeeva's experience performing at so many festivals the world over, she knew how to structure the programming so as to keep us all busy, while also allowing us breaks to recuperate (none of the venues were air-conditioned.) One of the highlights of the festival were the showcase, in which four of the international tellers told alongside local tellers, some of whom were making their debut in front of an adult audience (teachers, parents, friends).  All of us felt this was absolutely the right thing to do in terms of developing new talent, inspiring others and making audiences aware of the riches available on their doorstep. (Sadly our local festrival here in Singapore has the deplorable policy of segregating local tellers, shunting them into a slot in the restricted context of the Storytelling congress ($250 per ticket!)  while the international stars get a Showcase ($20 per seat) in the evening.) I am sure the festival will be back bigger and even better next year!


April 10 2014.  I'm now two months into a workshop with inmates of the Tanah Merah Prison, which is proving to be hugely rewarding.  The prison is part of the Changi complex, and as I understand it, functions as a school to which motivated inmates apply in order to study for O/N/a Levels. I am conducting a Mask workshop as a CCA activity, alongside other trainers offering music (ukelele, keyboard, choir) and art.

From Day 1, the participants have surprised me with their creativity, courage (to try something very new) and sense of humour. We began working with full masks, and the men enthusiastically explored them, expressing themselves non-verbally with great freedom.  I was particularly pleased with their repsonses when asked to find the dulaity in their Mask - what was the opposite emotion? An aggressive Mask became a heavyweight boxer slugging a (mercifully imaginary!) opponent, before taking hard punches himself. Shaken, winded, scared, the Mask retreated to his corner at the end of the round, before re-emerging with his former bravado and swagger - but it was gradually knocked out of him and after each round, he emerged from his corner more slowly and reluctantly.

There's been so much comedy too.  A rather brainless Mask starts angling by a river. He casts and waits. And waits. And waits. The round eyes, the round pouting mouth, the vacant look, are all very funny.  Another angler arrives and sits besides the first. A cheeky, mischevious face. He casts his line - and wow! immediately a fish bites!. The first Mask looks on in in astonishment. The newcomer casts again - and wham! Another fish bites. It's even bigger. A third cast - and a third fish. A real heavyweight. Angler #1 shakes his head. He motions to Angler 2 that they should change places. They do. They cast. Angler 1 - no joy. angler 2 - now in Angler 1's seat - hooks another. Angler 1 suggests they switch rods. They do. They cast. Again, it's Angler 2 who catches a fish almost instaneously! Angler 1 bends over to inspect what Angler 2 has in his tackle-box by way of bait. (He used the large plastic box I bring the Masks in.) Angler 2 casts - and his hook catches in Angler 1's bent-over bottom.  comic struggles to try to cast, !'s bottom bouncing up and down as it is tugged by the (mimed) hook.  Finally, Angler 1 lifts his head out of the tackle-box - AND HE'S CHANGED HIS MASK to one of open-mouthed shock/pain!

(This was completely his idea - I'd never mentioned the idea of changing a mask mid-way thruogh a scene, and the timing, the use of the misdirection - we were all watching #2, so the switch was a total surprise - showed a truly remarkable level of invention.)  

We've just moved on to half-masks - commedia style - and the oral demands of the work is proving more of a challenge to their confidence, but already I am seeing some very funny moments.  It's going to be tough to select just 10 minutes for thier CCA concert in August.