Japanese Flat Paper Puppet Theatre

An incredibly talented Japanese Puppeteer, and Graduate of the London School of Puppetry, for the last week we have been very lucky to have Yuki Muramatsu staying with us. Yuki is performing at the Skipton Puppet Festival this weekend and decided to spend some time with us at the LSP house, rehearsing her shows. Yuki's work is absolutely stunning; her puppets are so beautifully crafted and her operating is lovely. Her shows have a very positive feel to them and are a lot of fun! I shouldn't generalize, having only seen two shows out of her vast collection of work, but having met Yuki and spent time with her, I feel this assumption may be accurate. She is a lovely woman, incredibly supportive and very wise. She offered fantastic feedback to myself and other students and just generally made the room brighter. 

But I digress... as much as I would love to keep going on about how wonderful Yuki is (and I could), that is not the purpose of this post. On Wednesday afternoon, as a break from our festival madness, Yuki ran a two hour workshop in the art of Japanese Flat Paper Puppet Theatre, or "Pape-Sart". This seemingly simple form of puppetry is incredibly effective and has countless possibilities for invention. I was so engaged by Yuki's short demonstration, taken in by the magic, I knew this was something I would have to explore further.

Pape-Sart began as Japan's response to animation, or it seemed that way to some looking back. When animation was born in the early 1900's in America, Pape-Sart began to emerge in Japan. It began as a form of theatre for adults, some of the puppets quite gruesome, complimenting violent Japanese stories. As time went on however, Pape-Sart became more aimed at children. In Japan it is used regularly by teachers in schools, story tellers and puppeteers. Yuki has performed entire show's using Pape-Sart, something I would love to see... and try! 


After explaining some of the rules of Pape-Sart, Yuki set us all to making our very own Pape-Sart puppets, using a template she had created. Essentially a Pape-Sart puppet is a double sided drawing on a stick... doesn't sound too engaging, does it? When you see them in action though, operated by a pro... Oh so much fun! You draw the same character on each side, same colors, same position, but you change their expression or their physicality. In this way you make the puppet come to life. You use a flat stick in the center and when you turn the puppet from one side to the other, the story is alive. Timing is everything.


 It is hard to really explain how effective it is without showing you but one of my favorite examples was two characters playing catch. Two puppets. On one side of each, the character has the ball and on the other, there arms are in the air like they have just thrown it. Yuki would voice the characters simply and her eyes would follow the ball while it was in the air, the character turning to catch it only when it had reached them and moving a little with the "weight" of the ball. Yuki's timing and characterization were absolutely perfect, making a group of 6 adults fall in to fits of giggles. She also had a pig doing star jumps, Romeo giving Juliet his heart, little birds that flew etc. The photo's above and are mine and Alice's first Pape-Sart Puppets. We had a lot of fun creating a little back story for these characters.

 Once we had all made our own simple Pape-Sart Puppets, Yuki spent some time teaching us about timing and pace and delivery. It was all too much fun. We set to making more puppets and let our imaginations run wild,, "drawing with freedom" as Yuki put it. My next puppet was a scary looking jack in the box.

The whole workshop was a fantastically soothing experience. A bit of drawing, some coloring, cut and paste... It was a very nice break from the hectic schedules we have been living in the lead up to the festival. I think it's safe to say, I have a bit of a budding crush on Pape-Sart. I really enjoyed it. So, expect to see more about this in the future! 

Having Yuki in the LSP house has been absolutely lovely. She left us tonight but will be staying in Skipton for the duration of the festival. For anyone going to the Skipton Puppet Fest, look out for the Japanese lady with a puppety looking tree! Her show's are theatre-for-one pieces. You don't want to miss her! 


 For more about Yuki visit her website here: http://yuki-puppet.jimdo.com/english-page/

For more about the Skipton Festival visit: http://www.skiptonpuppetfestival.co.uk/ 

And for information about LSP... well, feel free to email me and ask questions! Or visit: http://londonschoolofpuppetry.com/