'The Frog and the Princess' – Norwich Puppet Theatre
The set is simple – a circular plinth with a bucket suspended above and a branch supporting a wooden shelf, framed by a white shadow screen. There are just two puppeteers and two main puppets, beautifully carved from wood, taking the parts of Frog and Princess. The story is perfectly pitched at its young audience, who giggle and squeal with delight as the Princess makes her way from the safe familiarity of the palace, across terrain formed by puppeteers' limbs, gnarly branches and turntable woodland paths, to a forbidden place beyond the Royal gardens.
Along the way we see the Princess' desire for freedom; encounter her prejudice – 'YUK, slimy skin! OO, pond smells! EURGH, eating bugs!'; and her discrimination as she declares that a frog is not a worthy friend for a princess. Back at the palace, after some hilarious soup antics, she finally embraces her froggy friend.
Although it looks simple, it is anything but. Beneath the surface, our puppeteers' legs are frog-kicking furiously. It is the ingenuity of the staging and dexterity of the puppeteers that set this show apart.
Accomplished puppeteers Aya Nakamura and Gilbert Taylor skip between roles so smoothly it's impossible to see the transitions from 'invisible' puppeteers to chatty courtiers. Even when the Princess puppet is propped on her chair 'dead', a mere symbol of herself, the story skips, hops, jumps and swims on, pausing only for a cooling spray under Frog's armpits. The puppeteers never lose hold of the story.
The hand of Rene Baker (director) is evident and the thorough period of play and exploration at Norwich Puppet Theatre prior to rehearsals have brought about an ingenuity, integrity and wit that shines through this production. As companies feel the funding pinch, it is tempting to skimp on an open exploratory R&D process – 'The Princess and the Frog' demonstrates why it's important not to.
The Frog and the Princess
Norwich Puppet Theatre