Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Spilling the beans on Jack & The Beanstalk - the story behind Citizen Puppet

Citizen Puppet is currently undergoing some major reconstruction in the rehearsal room. Those who have already seen it will know that it's built around Jack and the Beanstalk, refashioning the classic story as a puppet docu-drama about the 2008 economic crash.

The day Jack chops down the beanstalk is the fairy tale parallel of the Lehman Brother's collapse - the fall of the financial giants that devastated the western world and continues to reverberate to this day. 

As we enter the panto-season proper, we thought it a fine time to take a look at other interpretations of this classic... 

Need a story recap? 
Jack and his mother are very poor. Forced to flog their only cow when her milk runs dry, Jack meets a stranger en route to market and sells the animal for magic beans. Mum is angry, beats Jack, and throws the beans out the window. Beans grow into a gigantic beanstalk, leading to a bloodthirsty giant’s castle in the sky – complete with gold coins,  a goose that lays golden eggs,  and a singing harp. Jack swags the riches and kills the giant by chopping down the beanstalk with him still on it, in hot pursuit.

So where does it come from?
'The Boy Who Stole Ogre's Treasure' are a collection of stories dating back 5000 years (say Durham academics), and historically the giant may have its roots in the Gogmagog character of Welsh and English folklore. This giant was thrown from a cliff during a wrestling match in the lands we now know as Cornwall. 

What do others make of the beanstalk? 
The tree with incredible properties is a feature of ancient stories from across the world: 
  • The Banyan Tree, the Hindu’s sacred tree, symbolises longevity, fertility, nourishment and the fulfilment of wishes and material gains
  • Buddha finds enlightenment – a spiritual awakening - after meditating for 7 days under the sacred fig (Bodhi) tree with its heart-shaped leaves 
  • Serbian families burn the badnjak (Yule log) on Christmas eve alongside prayers to God for happiness, luck and riches
  • The tree in the Garden of Eden offering its fruit that bestows deeper knowledge (of good and evil)

What research went into Citizen Puppet rehearsals?
The creative team read versions of Jack & The Beanstalk from all over the world and analysis by experts like Marina Warner. 

And what's next for Citizen Puppet?
The script is currently being re-developed and some of the puppets re-designed, in particular the mechanisms used for the mouth movement. Hopefully we'll have some more news for you next year!

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