Puppet Rakugo

Norwich Puppet Theatre

> Norwich Puppet Theatre

In the West, we have comedy stand-up. In the East, they have comedy sit down! It's called Rakugo and it's 400 years old.

The term actually means 'falling word' or punch line and, traditionally, the Rakugo performer would have nothing more than a fan, a towel and a series of facial expressions to convey a funny story. I've never heard of them using puppets, but that's not to say they never did.

Showko Shoufukutei, definitely bent the ancient rules, however, in adding ventriloquism to the mix, which made this show a kind of East/West hybrid with a distinctly modern feel.

The first character to be drawn out of the red silk box was Ken: a naughty puppet, whose gentle antics seemed to catch the audience's affection. He was a bit like a warm-up act. No real story, just plenty of gags.

Next came the tale of the Emperor and his New Clothes, a more lengthy, image-based fairy tale, in which Shoufukutei's two index fingers played all the roles. I loved this: particularly the crowd scene at the end, where even the performers' toes were employed as extras.

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It was not what I expected. But then again, that's the whole point of Rakugo. And by the end, I was completely charmed.

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