Experimental Shadow Project

My first collaborative project at the London School of Puppetry; for the past two days we have had the pleasure of working with Director Keziah Serreau and film maker Valentina Floris on an experimental shadow film. 

Keziah is a freelance Director based in London who's work in theatre is incredibly varied, from circus and physical theatre to more classical work. She is passionate about experimenting with new forms so had a wonderful attitude towards working with our rag tag group of puppeteers and makers. Valentina is also based in London with her company SDNA; who specialize in digital art "integrating site-responsive installation and live performance" (see http://www.sdna.tv/). Working with these two talented women was incredibly inspiring. Not to mention Caroline Astell Burt, head of LSP, who has an incredible amount of wisdom, experience, perspective and talent where all forms of puppetry are concerned.

 We worked in Linton Hall, a nice large space in Grassington's neighboring village. With a large shadow screen from floor to ceiling in the center of the hall, a variety of lighting options, materials and props, we were well equipped for this experimental endeavor. Our greatest resource however, was our own bodies and of course our own minds. With a mix of students with varying experience, interests and taste, plus Valentina, Keziah and Caroline, we had a fantastic team for spit balling ideas, experimenting and problem solving. 

 The story of a soldier returning from war: He walks towards his house in the snow. He looks into the window only to find his wife with another man and two children, a happy family together by the fire. He knocks on the door, the wife is in shock. She believed him dead. Neither speak. He is welcomed in and is comforted and fed. It becomes clear that one of the children is the soldiers son. On seeing his wife and son are happy in their new life, the soldier leaves.  

This simple little story, chosen by Keziah, began our work. How could we present this using shadow in a way that was both innovative and interesting? We divided the story between the LSP students, five different creative minds to tackle this tale. We began to play. And oh, how I loved this! Working collaboratively, we helped bring everyone's ideas to life. I had never worked with shadow before and the possibilities are endless! Different light sources create different aesthetics and moods. A projector screen gives a sharp image, whereas a torch offers softer silhouettes and multiple torches creates overlapping shadows. Move the torches around and the shadows dance, ad gels for mood! You can also work with different materials on the projector screen, some ruffled glad wrap becomes a stormy sky or sea! 

The use of different materials and props was so stimulating. A curvy female body becomes a mountain, many arms and hands under multiple torches become a spooky forest in the night, a clear plastic spoon on a projector screen becomes a thought bubble (see photo below), two cheese graters moving under a torch become snow, a piece of cardboard strategically manipulated becomes a man, a house... children dancing! Endless! See the gallery for some examples of the work. I will post the film in my gallery as soon as it is completed. The photo's really don't do it justice! 



Working with this group of creative people has been wonderful, and the work we created was incredibly inspiring for me; a new world has opened up for me in shadow! There is so much to explore! We did not work in the traditional form of shadow puppetry (something I will get to learn in my time here), but with a more modern and experimental technique. I felt creatively challenged, stimulated and fulfilled. . I had a wonderful time on this project. Not to mention the night of Karaoke at the Grassington pub (but that's a story for another day!)

I have only been at the London School of Puppetry for three days now but already I feel at home. Tonight, after a lovely communal meal, I am now sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by live music; two ukuleles and an accordion creating original music. Plus Kate on my right making a stop motion film with objects on the table... while we all sing! Bliss! I am in the right place. A blog about the school will not be far away! Stay tuned!!!