barry purves

As I prepare the animated Mari Lwyd sequences for the Mid Wales Chamber Orchestra commission of The Mare’s Tale (music by Mark Bowden and words by Damian Walford Davies), I’m recommending to Artloggers examples of  films from the animators I most admire. Following Yuri Norstein, Jan Svankmejer, Siri Melchior and Norman McLaren, comes British animator Barry Purves and his exhilarating romp through the complete plays of Shakespeare in under six minutes, “Next”. There is no-one who captures physical grace like Purves, and his wordless Shakespeare is as elegant as a dancing master as he presents his one-man mime/puppet show.

Above: Shakespeare the puppeteer.

Purves has elicited as clever and vivacious a performance from a stop-motion actor as ever I’ve seen, and I challenge any of you not to smile when confronted with a cross gartered Bard of Avon executing a flawless entrechat with more beats in it than you can count. (His feet are a blur!) As the music builds, so does the invention. There are simply too many stand-out moments to list, but I love the swift dispatch of the princes in the tower and the final glittering transfiguration. I promise you this wonderful film will lift your spirits!

Above! Shakespeare transfigured.

Click HERE to view “Next”.

12 thoughts on “barry purves

  1. Pingback: interview with Barry Purves part 1: in the realm of the birds | Clive Hicks-Jenkins' Artlog:

  2. Pingback: Interview with Barry Purves part 2: in the realm of the senses | Clive Hicks-Jenkins' Artlog:

  3. thanks guys… glad that you still enjoy this film. I hope you have spotted all the references. Feel free to post the order of plays as Will performs them. He does not do them chronologically. I had to end with a big finish….and where is all that gold from?
    Oh to be able to do more films like this….

    • OK Barry, that’s a challenge laid down. Of course every time I watch the film I spot more titles, which must have been exactly what you planned! When I’ve completed the list I’ll augment the post with it, though I may have to put a ‘spoiler’ alert for those who want to work things out for themselves!

  4. wow! i love the bit with the ship, the lightning, and the water falling away, wondrous!!! the talking hands were clever, and the ending transformation really was magical–thank you so much for this introduction!!

    • My pleasure, Zoe. Clearly this isn’t the only way to animate, and while I don’t aspire to such artistry, I do greatly enjoy watching it. This must be the benchmark for grace and wit and detail, and it’s definitely territory Purves has claimed for his own. When I watch it I find myself lost in admiration for the magnificent invention and craftsmanship.

      One of the things that I like least in stop-motion with characters as realistic as this puppet of Will Shakespeare, is lip-sync, and cleverly, Purves has made “Next” a mime show. The perfect solution to a thorny problem.

  5. I remember seeing this on channel 4 many years ago (back in the days when they were committed to showing lots of great animation shorts from around the world)

    It will be a pleasure to watch it again – thanks for stirring fond memories 🙂

    • There’s another ravishingly lovely film he made titled Screen Play, and like “Next” it’s full of the most wonderful theatrical sleight-of-hand. Viewable at YouTube, though at really poor resolution that doesn’t do it justice.

      Yeah, whatever happened to Channel 4? From those early days of so much that was wonderful, to purveyors of crap!

  6. What a wonderful romp through the works of Shakespeare! I watched the film Anonymous at the weekend about whether Will actually wrote the plays or whether they were the work of Edward de Vere. Not sure how much of it was true or pure fantasy but it was good fun and made this even more enjoyable as I tried to identify the plays. You were right about special moments in it, Clive. Very clever stuff indeed. I can’t imagine how much effort by how many people went into making five minutes of film but it was worth it. Thanks for another gem.

    • I think that Anonymous is, as you suggest, a fantasy. But a very pretty one!

      I’m amazed by Barry Purves’ skills as an animator. When Will turns his eye to the camera and arches a brow, it’s as though the puppet is a living performer! The subtlety of expression is staggering.

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