Task 3: Research in relation to ‘The Magic Paintbrush’ and ‘The Table, The Donkey and The Cudgel’

The Street Stories

For our street performance we decided to perform ‘The Magic Paintbrush’ and ‘The Table, The Donkey and The Cudgel’ which we might end up changing the name of. As of 16th of October 2016 we have currently only assigned which parts are going to be played by who on the second story; I will be playing as the second brother. We haven’t worked on this story yet but ‘The Magic Paintbrush’ is almost entirely done, we only need to obtain the necessary props either by buying them or by making them ourselves. In ‘The Magic Paintbrush’ I play as a rice field worker, a tree, a bridge, a bed, a clown and a money tree. Here is a video of a rehearsal of ‘The Magic Paintbrush’:

In summary the plot of this story is: A boy called Ma Liang has a dream one night in which a mysterious person gives him a magic paintbrush. Whatever is painted with this paintbrush comes to life. Ma Liang then uses this power for good and the emperor’s spies find out about the paintbrush. The emperor orders the spies to get him the paintbrush but once they do he is unable to paint because only the boy can paint things to life with the paintbrush. The boy is imprisoned by the emperor to draw things for him. Once the emperor asks for an island of money the boy draws it but also draws sea between him and the island. Once the emperor embarks to the island the boy draws a big storm and the emperor’s ship is destroyed. This story will teach kids not to be greedy like the emperor, but be kind like Ma Liang.

Even though we haven’t worked on ‘The Table, The Donkey and The Cudgel’ we still know the story of it. Three siblings are kicked out of the house by their mother because they supposedly underfed the goat, but they didn’t; the goat lied. Each of them sets out to different parts of the world. The first brother, for his hard work, is rewarded a magic table that sets food and drinks by itself. The second brother is rewarded a donkey that poos pennies. And the third brother is rewarded a magic cudgel that hits things by its own will. They then decide to return home to show mother that what they have achieved but on their way they stop at an inn, one at a time. The first brother has his table switched by the inn keeper to a regular table and when he returns home to show his mum what he got, the table does nothing. The second brother has his donkey switched and when he returns home the donkey does nothing too, the brothers having realised what happened send a message to the third brother. The third brother knowing that the inn keeper is evil uses the cudgel to bash the inn keeper and retrieve the switched items. Once he gets home mum sees all of the magical items and they all make up. Moral of the story is that you should trust your family.

Our Reasoning

The reason we chose fairy tales is because they are the most easily made into a performance, especially a performance for kids. We wanted one of our fairy tales to be told with as few words as possible and that is ‘The Magic Paintbrush’. We did this because we knew that people would have a hard time understand conversations from far away. With a fairy tale performance focused on movement it will not only make people more interested but it will also allow people from further away to enjoy it just as much as people who are closer. ‘The Table, the Donkey and the Cudgel’ will have more dialogue but if it is performed after then the audience will already be engaged from the first performance and will be more willing to make an effort to understand the second, or they could leave because they already saw one performance and they don’t want to see another. In a street performance you can’t know what will happen because no one is buying a ticket to watch it all, they’re just passers-by. What makes people think that a play is amazing is usually the things that can captivate them the most. Lighting, sound and effects are crucial in having an interested audience, but we won’t be able to produce lighting nor effects and the sound will be our voices. What we can do however is fake effects with pretty visuals. Good space usage, movement and audience interaction also allows for a more interested audience and these are things that we can and will do.

Our Audience

Our audience is anyone who is walking through the streets of Bury St Edmund during the time we are performing. We have to make it appropriate for the audience but since we don’t know what our audience will be we have to make it for the lowest age possible. Anything from toddlers and kids to the elderly could be watching our performance. We could have an audience of 50 people or of 3. Everything depends on how well we advertise it, weather conditions and how captivating our performance actually is. To advertise it we won’t go into spending money on marketing but we will instead spread it by word of mouth and a possibility could be to warn people at the Christmas Fayre that a street performance will be held in 10 minutes. If the weather is rainy there will be fewer people in the streets, meaning our audience will be reduced and this is a factor that we cannot change. To captivate our audience we will have a very visually appealing fairy tale performance with minimal speech. So even if it rains and people don’t hear what we say we will still perform and our movements will tell the story for us.

Street performance at Auckland International Buskers Festival. Auckland, New Zealand

Audience knowledge defines their reactions, if a professional dancer went to see a perfectly acted but poorly danced musical, the professional would have a hard time coping with how bad the dancing is to appreciate the acting. Our audience will probably have kids and that can either be very good, because kids are easy to entertain, or it could be bad because kids lose interest quickly and are very harsh critics. So we would have to keep our show consistently interesting. To do that we will always have someone on stage, there will not be an empty moment in the performance.

Predicted Difficulties and Solutions

On the day we perform (24th of November) there is a likelihood of rain, it will probably be quite cold and it could either be crowded or empty. Performing in the town’s centre gives us the highest chance of having the biggest crowd. We must be prepared for any occasion. If we assume that it will rain preparing everything is much harder but if it does rain we have a solution. All props that could be damaged by rain will have to have some kind of protection, either plastic covering or impermeable surface. Not having a backstage will prove to be difficult because we still need to keep the props somewhere, so to solve this problem we will have a limited amount of props that we will bring with us. Props will also have to be made by us due to a low/non-existing budget. We chose to perform in a thrust stage because it will give the best view for the people. We could have done theatre in the round but if we did that we wouldn’t have a place to store our props. A thrust stage gives the people a more approachable and interactive experience than proscenium arch too, and that is why we ended up picking thrust stage.

Health and Safety

In a rainy weather we would have to be careful about the slippery floor while performing. We should try not to make quick movements to not slip and fall.

Slippery floor

Warm clothes underneath performing clothes would also be recommended in cold weather, as well as a bottle with tea to warm up our throat as we will be speaking loudly for a while. During the performance we should not block any crucial paths while not on stage.


A street performance nearly in December is not easy to do because of so many variables that could change how we perform, how our props are and even who our audience is. To be able to perform this to a good enough standard we have to go prepared. As of October 16th we have at least 12 rehearsal sessions for both of the fairy tales. If we keep progressing as we have until now, we will be prepared.


2 thoughts on “Task 3: Research in relation to ‘The Magic Paintbrush’ and ‘The Table, The Donkey and The Cudgel’”

  1. Karolis, excellent overview, some research on Bury St Edmunds town centre (geography / layout) would have added still more to this, as would referencing the increased footfall to the Christmas Fayre due to additional visitors and the number of stalls and competing performances, I would also have liked to have seen some direct research relating to the specific two stories you and your group were working with – where did they originate, how do they support or contradict your initial story research done in task 1?


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