In Nuremberg… away for Christmas, but kept close to home by thought.
Here in Germany they celebrate the festive season on the 24th… so the cast & crew of ‘Ice Age Live’ have Christmas Eve off and while the locals gather as families, give presents and consume the traditional fare, I’ll be heading for a Mexican restaurant (about the only thing open) before performing for thousands on a three show December 25th.
But for now, I want to share a Christmas gift I received.
As a puppeteer, I am extremely privileged, to witness moments where people give life to the things I perform… whether it be the most sophisticated, mega-buck animatronic, or the simplest sock puppet I am convinced that it is about the audience’s mind, rather than the character’s cost. Now… appearing live in Ice Age, I get to look out through the fur and steel as we shamble about and I daily see children and adults imbue our manipulation with greater meaning… and by so doing they are caught up in story, story that allows them to escape pain or sadness that exists outside these brief imaginings.
After Saturday’s shows this was made more than clear.
Announcement made at morning notes… ‘there’s to be a meet and greet after today’s third show’.
Three show days are hard on all, you have to dig very deep to maintain the level of performance, particularly when in the show intervals and between the shows, I’m having to conduct urgent repairs. Today: Manny’s eye & trunk cables, Peach’s head control, Diego’s hind leg attachments… all at a rush, but all managed away from the audience’s gaze.
By the sixth hour in costume, when not performing out on the ice, I’m pretty much hanging in the harness… trying to keep focus.
Then it’s the finalè of show three… lovely applause from this festive audience, take the bow and recede behind the video wall… we’re done!
Just the ‘meet and greet’.
Tonight just one child.
She’s seven years old and has terminal cancer. Sid’s her favourite character. We all go to meet her.
She watches our advance from her wheelchair and her face lights up.
At the edge of the ice the mad herd stops, she is helped to stand before us and I see – through the fabric & fur – that within her chunky red christmas jumper, there is little in the way of body.
She hugs Sid, partly out of affection and pleasure, partly to assist her legs.
There is the click of lens shutters… a record of this meeting, but not for her.
Laughter trumps pain for a moment.
The herd makes to depart, she goes back to her chair.
Manny stays, moves close… an enormous creature before this tiny girl… and gently lifts his trunk and places it on her lap. She holds onto it, then rubs her face in the soft fur and looks up into his eyes and a smile that could illuminate all the world fills her face.
She lets go, Manny pulls back and just for her; rears to his full height & trumpets & bows. She laughs and claps. Her parents are in tears. I’m losing it. Manny turns and leaves… lone across the ice, through the video wall and the spell is broken.
Park-up, un-buckle, make-safe… leave the huge puppet in the dark of the back-stage… but there is no more dark, thanks to a tiny girl who is only here for a while.
May you too get to experience some light shining this Christmas.