Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Play Days

I have very clear memories of me as a three year old sitting cross-legged in the front row. I can’t remember what was said to me or if I even understood - at that stage I was still this weird little French speaking kid – but I knew that something special was happening, that everyone was excited, that we were being given a treat. It was a Punch and Judy show. Apparently in 1947 Middlesex County Council had this to say about the shows: "No more Punch and Judy shows at school treats! The Punch show is brutal and totally unfit for the innocent eyes and ears of children". I have very little recollection of what happened after that. I was sprayed with water, it was incredibly loud, it was violent, I hated it and I’ve hated Punch and Judy shows ever since. So I was none too pleased when the Queeb I was travelling with felt that as we were experiencing all things ‘Lyonnais’ that we should go to a Guignol show.

Ok I knew that Guignol was not Punch, but he did have a stick in his hand. And ‘Gnafron’, Guignol’s best friend, had a bit of a hooked nose. Although there is a hazy link between Punch and Guignol via a shady Italian character called Pulcinella who dates back to the 16th Century, Laurent Mourguet based his cloth hand puppet on his pal who cried out: “C’est guignolant,” whenever he liked the puppets, hence the name Guignol.

I tried to distract the Queeb by getting our magic horoscope from the machine outside the shop where Guignol tickets were advertised, but there was nothing I could do to put her off; we had to go. So, we had some lunch, we took the Funicular up to Fourvière. I wondered: is it a particularly French thing to stick a hideous building on top of a hill? The Basilica Notre-Dame de Fourvière is an amazing variety of architectural styles that just ends up looking ridiculous. And then if the outside wasn’t bad enough you then push open those great big heavy doors and OH MY GOD; someone went a little wild with the gold in there. We had to wander around very slowly and see it from every possible angle just to see if it had any redeeming features. Nope, there weren’t even any gargoyles, just pastiche.

Then we had to go and see the Gallo-Romano Amphitheatre. That was pretty cool. We had one arrow pointing left another pointing right so went straight ahead and there it was. We bumbled around; me exploring all the different nooks and crannies (I like doing that sort of thing) and then the Queeb pointed out the time, almost time for the Puppet show.

Now I’m beginning to realise that I have a fair few phobias. Where most people seem to make do with one or two I seem to be collecting them as time goes on, so really it’s time to face some of them down. No? We paid for our tickets, were shown to our seats and I settled down; kind of. I never took my coat off, you know just in case I had to get up and run out. And eventually the play started…

M. Poivert came out and introduced us to the beautiful streets of Lyon. “It’s much nicer than those horrid polluted streets of Paris. N’est pas Queeb and Miss V?” Hey! I sat up. Then he started going on about Marseille probably being more polluted, but Lyon had the nicest boys and maybe Queeb and Miss V would find nice men here in Lyon! The story turned out quite sweet, Guignol’s childhood sweetheart Madelon was back in town as was a thief who liked bright shiny gold. I learnt that in Lyon kids are called ‘gones’ and at the end when we were invited to do a backstage tour, the puppeteer waxed lyrical about Lyon while on his left hand Guignol was as animated as ever.

So I guess in the end it wasn’t so bad, it might even be considered a highlight, what with my name being dropped right at the beginning of the play and all. The puppets were kind of cute, the theatre was nice in a kitschy puppet kind of way, and I loved the café across the street.

I have added the label photos and I will post photos when I get home, but meanwhile I'm just kind of floating about thinking I should be working, but I'd kind of like to post about Lyon some more!

6 comments:

Shameless said...

I hate to admit it, V, but I haven't yet been to a guignol play in Lyon. I will now though, as long as he says my name at the start! I live next door to Lyon's first ever guignol theatre .. shame on me!

Verilion said...

Hey we all do it. I avoided the Moulin Rouge for a good few years and then I went with my Folks and ho hum it was dead cheesy! My Dad liked it though!

me said...

southern california isn't the biggest play community, regrettably.

Atyllah said...

That basilica sounds like High Baroque gets confused with High Renaissance!
I've never quite understood the appeal of Punch and Judy - perhaps it's too much like real life brutality...?

Verilion said...

Me, why don't you write one, I've been to your site and I have to say I'm thoroughly jealous of your writing but will be linking to you anyway ( ;
And Atyllah that basilica...'is outstanding for its style, for the variety of materials used, for the richness of its interior design'
the leaflet then goes on to say that the inside is 'a symbolic poem to the Virgin.' Uh huh, a cheesy hallmark poem! Anyway enough, I seem to have spent all of last week upsetting Christians starting with Jesus's erection to Chocolate Jesus's and now I'm slagging off a 'Leading site of the Virgin Mary that welcomes you to lead you to God.'
As for Punch and Judy, when I was researching this, cos remember I last saw a show A VERY LONG TIME AGO, it turns out Punch kills Judy and a baby in it. Like, what the hell? This is children's entertainment? No wonder I was traumatised, I'm scared of buttons for chrisske's I was never going to deal with that.

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