Produced by the Little Angel Theatre, SUSPENSE is a puppetry festival aimed at adults that takes place in London between October and November, an ideal time for me this year as I had just relocated to London as the festival opened. Limited finances meant I needed to be clever about how I approached this opportunity, a chance to learn, to grow, to network and to be inspired. The program was full of enticing possibilities; how could I choose?
VOLUNTEERING AT THE LITTLE ANGEL: Something I was always planning on, well certainly since becoming aware of the theatre and its work, SUSPENSE marked the beginning of my relationship with The Little Angel Theatre in a voluntary capacity. An absolute pillar of the puppetry community here in the UK, I felt this was somewhere I needed to become involved. Thus far I have only had the chance to usher at the theatre, something which is very valuable to me; the chance to see world class puppetry productions, meet the people involved and feel the energy of this unique company. I was lucky enough to usher for the Little Angel's production of Macbeth and Philippe Genty's "Dustpan Odyssey", both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. Early next year I am hoping to get involved as an assistant in the theatres education program.
RONNIE LE DREW'S ROD AND MARIONETTE WORKSHOP: Having had the opportunity to learn from and work with Ronnie Le Drew in the past, I was enticed by the opportunity to spend a day with this brilliant man and learn more about the art form that I love. The workshop was aimed at beginners, something which I have certainly surpassed, however I found it to be very useful to have some of the basics re-iterated and reveled in the chance to watch Ronnie work. Though I have had some experience with marionettes, the only way to improve is to keep practicing and here was a chance to practice under the guidance of an incredible operator. Rod's however I have very little experience with and found the morning session's work with table top puppets to be very interesting.
SYMPOSIUM ON WOMEN IN PUPPETRY: A day of discussion and debate, this symposium was one of my highlights of the festival; a room full of talented, passionate women and men, discussing the role of the female puppeteer and the female puppet. Lead by some amazing speakers, the likes of Penny Francis, Caroline Astel-Burt and Nenagh Watson, the opportunity to learn from these women, hear their views and express my own in this informal environment felt like a great privilege. All from diverse backgrounds (age, ethnicity, sexuality etc.), presenting some very interesting topics, all relating back to the overarching theme, I walked away with many new ideas and concepts and much to ponder.
BASTARD: A multi-disciplinary production by Dutch company DudaPaiva, incorporating film, dance and puppetry, this show blew me away. The puppets were beautifully designed and built and were such a powerful presence on the stage. The way the puppetry was utilized in this production was incredibly innovative and beautifully executed by the single performer. It was easy to forget that it was a one man show as all of the characters were so vibrant and present in this world he had created. The crossover of puppetry and dance was stunning and almost brought me to tears at points when coupled with poignant points within the story. I really can't fault this show, it was just incredible. We were lucky enough to have the opportunity after the show to meet the performer and have a look at the puppets. I will definitely be keeping track of this company in the future.
SEMINAR ON THE PUPPETEER AND THE ACTOR: Chaired by Artistic Director of The Little Angel Pete Grenville, this event at the Actor's Centre looked at the role of puppeteers and actors and how these two disciplines are utilized in the world of puppetry performance. This was a very interesting session with a panel of incredible theatre practitioners, Sarah Wright, Mike Shepherd (Kneehigh), Mervyn Millar (Handspring/War Horse), Sue Buckmaster (Theatre Rites) and Rachel Warr (Dotted Line Theatre). The discussion looked at the demand for actors in puppetry and vice versa and how each of these disciplines is perceived by producers and directors. It was a very interesting session which I felt I gained a lot from. Coming from a background in acting, it has reminded me to continue to flex those muscles while building on my skills in puppetry performance.
The SUSPENSE Festival was an excellent beginning to my time in London and has left me feeling motivated and inspired. I am excited to create, to learn and to grow while discovering this incredible city.
For more about the SUSPENSE Festival, visit: http://suspensefestival.com/
This week I am back at the London School of Puppetry, working on a developmental theatre production with a very exciting team. Stay tuned for more...