On Tuesday (6/08), I was very fortunate to take part in a private workshop with legendary puppeteer Ronnie Le Drew. Myself and two other students from the London School of Puppetry (all at various stages of our training, myself not having made it to the campus yet!) were invited in to Ronnie's home where he bestowed upon us, in what he described "A crash course", his wisdom in the art of glove puppetry.
A bit of context: Ronnie Le Drew is an exceptional performer with years of experience under his belt. He worked with Jim Henson on numerous occasions, including performing in cult classic "Labyrinth". He was a member of the cast of "The Sooty Show" (some of these puppets we got to meet!), a show I watched as a little girl (see Ronnie pictured with sooty below). He is most well known for his work as "Zippy" with the British children's show "Rainbow". On top of this, his theatre credits are endless, most notably working with The Little Angel Theatre in London for more than 50 years.
Clearly, I was very excited to meet the man. And he did not disappoint; a wealth of knowledge on the craft and the industry, not to mention an engaging personality and charming wit. What a fantastic opportunity! This was my first taste of learning here in the UK and Oh how inspired I felt. I spent the day in Ronnie's beautiful home with Ronnie himself and two of my fellow students (whom I had also just met), learning the performance techniques involved in glove puppetry... well, as much as we could learn with six hours together!
Having very little experience with glove puppets besides playing with them as a child, I was astounded by how much there is to know about these seemingly simple creations. The characters came to life in Ronnie's hands and he had us totally engaged, laughing and empathizing with these creations of felt and polystyrene. This is why I love puppetry, that ability to make an audience connect with something unreal. It was clear to me instantly how talented Ronnie is and I felt incredibly privileged to have this time to learn from him.
We learned to walk, to handle props, to interact, about timing and audience awareness. Ronnie was a fantastic teacher, patient and encouraging. By far the most entertaining few minutes was Ronnie's direction of what I like to call "glove puppet aerobics". Myself and my fellow students stood behind the play-board with our characters up, while Ronnie stood in front of us and moved his arms about. Left arm out, right arm out, both arms out. With a dodo, a monkey and a penguin mirroring his every move, Ronnie couldn't help but laugh. We all ended up in fits of giggles, especially when the cheeky penguin (operated by my fellow student Sabrina) could not keep time.
A fantastic day, I had so much fun and felt genuinely challenged. I left feeling inspired, motivated and very pumped for everything that lies ahead. I am currently developing my own glove puppetry piece for my first module with London School of Puppetry. Caroline Astell-Burt, head of LSP, set up this workshop with Ronnie for us as a lead in to the module. I can not thank her enough! I will be heading to LSP late next week to begin my training. Stay tuned for updates!