A Very Puppety Week!

Though it wasn't necessarily planned this way, last week was an incredibly busy week for me, full of lots of puppetry in many different forms! Generally when I am asked to do something, I only check the specific dates and rarely look at my week as a whole. So it wasn't until the weekend before, that I realized what an exciting week I had ahead of me! This post will look at my week and what I gained from each of the experiences. 

It began with Ria Dastidar on the Monday; a full days rehearsal for her master's project "Puppet's Give Bad Advice". Ria studies animation at Central Saint Martins and for her masters decided to explore the world of puppetry, and how it could be used along side animation. The project is essentially a short sketch comedy piece combining animation with some fun and silly lip sync puppets. I won't go into too much detail as I will certainly write a dedicated blog post about this project once it is completed. However, I will say that the rehearsal day, was long, challenging and a lot of fun. We are working with a green scree and to a separate voice track, both new techniques for me so a fantastic chance to learn and grow, developing these new skills. The rehearsal was incredibly beneficial, preparing both myself and my fellow puppeteer Jen Dee for the upcoming shoot. More on this later.

Tuesday and Wednesday were spent volunteering for the Little Angel Theatre's education program, specifically assisting with their Easter "Passport" workshop's for kids. Exploring a different kind of puppetry on each day, these workshops took children all over the world, allowing them to build a puppet while learning something about another culture. I was not able to help every day but thoroughly enjoyed the two days I did spend on this project. On Tuesday the workshop was focused on Indian Marionettes, the children creating their own simple marionettes using a paper cup for a head, and some lovely brightly colored fabric for a flexible body. The design was so wonderfully simple, it really gave the children the chance to let their imaginations run wild. This workshop was expertly led by Judith Hope and the results were really lovely.

On the Wednesday we visited Turkey and the world of shadow puppets. Led by puppeteer and maker Laura Halliwell, we looked at colored shadow puppets first, coloring with markers on to paper, then painting over with oil to create a translucent effect. Later we worked on black silhouette puppets, where the design took quite a bit more explaining! Again, the results were fantastic, some really imaginative designs! These two days were really beneficial for me; My role was to assist the workshop leaders and also assist the children with their work. I really enjoy working with kids in this sort of environment and children's workshop's are something I would like to attempt on my return to Australia, so seeing how these workshops were executed was really helpful.

On Wednesday afternoon, my good friend, puppeteer Chris Wylie arrived in London for a two day puppetry binge. On Wednesday evening we made our way out to Wilton's Music Hall to see "Father Nandru & The Wolves", a new production created specifically for this space. Chris is a graduate of the London School of Puppetry, (where I am currently studying) and performing in the show was Lori Hopkins, another LSP graduate and incredibly talented performer. I have had the pleasure of seeing Lori perform several times now and she is an absolute joy to watch. Her operating is flawless and her character work just beautiful. The performances in this production were all very strong and the puppetry was really lovely. After the show, Lori, Chris and I caught up, sharing some drinks and plenty of puppety stories. 

Thursday arrived and I had a shift at the Little Angel Theatre, ushering for Garlic Theatre's "There's a Monster in my Piano". Chris had bought a ticket to see the show at the same time so we made our way towards Islington together. Having both attended Mark Pitman's masterclass in Norwich just a few weeks prior, we were eager to see what Garlic Theatre had in store for us. This show is really fantastic; high energy, innovative and loads of fun. A one woman show, performed by Garlic Theatre's Iklooshar Malara, it was astounding how much happened on that stage. There was excitement, danger and a host of quirky characters to keep us entertained. The puppets were beautifully made; Chris and I were lucky enough to be invited back stage to see the puppets and have a chat with Iklooshar about the work. I thoroughly enjoyed this show and highly recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity to see it!

That evening Chris and I attended ImmerCity's "Cirque Tsuki", an immersive theatre event starring yet another LSP graduate and good friend of ours, Kate James Moore. This production blew us both away. We hadn't realized how long the show went for prior to arriving, but somehow the five hours disappeared with no hint of tedium. There were interactive segments where the audience was encouraged to participate, becoming part of the circus and fantastic energy among the diverse performers with dancers, musicians and of course puppeteers. Kate's work within the show was beautiful; she has such an amazing imagination and seeing her ideas come to life was a real treat. Her use of objects to tell stories was so cleverly executed her manipulation subtle yet controlled. The performance pieces throughout were incredibly well done and the use of the space was very clever. I was so impressed by this show with it's strength, innovation and dare I say bravery... not many would attempt to hold an audience for five hours, but they really achieved something wonderful and by the end of it the audience had become a part of this unique and quirky circus world. 

Seeing these three very different productions, utilizing many different forms of puppetry, all three quite experimental was incredibly inspiring. Seeing other companies work and other puppeteers perform is always beneficial to me as it gives me ideas of what could be possible, and reminds me of your my strengths and weaknesses. Not to mention the puppets themselves, how they are made, how they are operated and how they are utilized by the director. I enjoyed all three productions and feel they have contributed greatly to the collection of inspiration that dwells inside my head!

Last but certainly not least, the cherry on top of my very puppety week was quite simply... an email. On Saturday I received some very exciting news, I have been granted UNIMA Australia's Lorrie Gardner Scholarship for 2014! Yay! Now, what does this mean? The Lorrie Gardner Scholarship is an education and training grant, encouraging Australian puppeteer and makers to go out there and seek training. I sent in my proposal a few months ago, outlining my work with the London School of Puppetry... what I have learned, what there is yet to learn, and of course, why I consider myself a valuable investment for Australia's puppetry community. And it seems that UNIMA's Scholarship Commitee agrees. So, I will receive financial support from UNIMA Australia to continue my studies at LSP in May. After I complete my course, I will need to write a report of my time, how my scholarship assisted me and in what. This report will be published in the Australian Puppeteer Magazine, a fantastic opportunity for exposure. Clearly I am overjoyed. A huge thanks has to go out to everyone who supported me through this process and of course to UNIMA Australia for giving me this wonderful opportunity.

And so ends my very puppety week... though there are many more on the horizon!

Below are links for more information about any of the above...

For more about Ria Dastidar visit: http://uberpup.myblog.arts.ac.uk/

For more about The Little Angel's education program visit: http://www.littleangeltheatre.com/education/

For more about Father Nandru and the Wolves visit: https://wiltons.org.uk/event.php?p=718

For more about Lori Hopkins visit: http://www.lorihopkins.co.uk/

For more about Garlic Theatre visit: http://www.garlictheatre.org.uk/

For more about ImmerCity visit: http://www.immer-city.com/wp/

For more about UNIMA Australia visit: http://www.unima.org.au/