Dolls of New Albion – Week 1

This week, I have been mostly been devising and puppeteering at the Oval House Theatre for the one and only Steampunk Opera ‘Dolls of New Albion’



At the start of this month, I was praised for being apart of a group who created a 30 minute work-in-progress opera piece for the puppetry in two weeks. Many of our audiences members couldn’t belief we had such little time.


This week I started work on a 90-minute opera that will be performed in a work-in-progress performance in 1 and a half week.



The moment I found out about auditions for the project I was incredibly drawn and excited about the whole concept! Even if I had not been successful this was the sort of show I would have jumped at the chance to see (while bringing quite a few friends with me) I was completely sold after hearing the soundtrack on composer Paul Shapera’s blog and found myself humming the tunes.


This was a part I really wanted to get!


I auditioned for the role of a puppeteer late October while still working on the Empress’s Feet and was told I had the part the next morning! (Not bad for my first ever puppetry audition)


My main responsibility is to create the mysterious and fantastical City of New Albion but I will be co-puppeteering the character of Jasper, a dead man brought back to life inside a doll, with Faith Brandon (Who coincidently also performed in the Puppetry in Opera event I took part in earlier this month)


The week before, I decided the simplest and quickest way to create New Albion was using the technique of shadow art, which involves creating images using the collective shadow created by different objects. Using objects within the Steampunk world, including a top hat and a pith helmet, I found I was able to create a believable, if a bit quirky, skyline.


After flurries on emails with the brilliant director Mark Swetz and a quick meet and greet session, this week we finally started work on what is probably the most ambitious project I have been apart of.


On Monday, myself and Faith played around with the objects our brilliant and hard working designer Lily Arnold and stage manager Jennifer Hunting to create a skyline of New Albion (unfortunately sans OHP!), some cool lightening effects and looking more deeply into the score for the whole opera!


Tuesday and Wednesday we worked close with the actor/singers we would be working with closely, particularly Lauren Osborn (Who is playing an amazing four characters!) and Mikey Shearer who is the voice of Jasper. We talked through the character of Jasper as a team (We are collectively known by Mark as Team Jasper!) as well as tackling the vague and mysterious words in Jaspers main song Elysian Nights (Is it about an afterlife or the world beyond or a lullaby for his daughter?)


On Thursday, Faith and I not only got our first chance to puppeteer Jasper (who was almost completely made in one day by Isabel Lyster) but we were also given invaluable help from Paul Piris, puppetry director for the fantastic Rouge28 Theatre (Whose work I saw at last years Suspense Festival and was incredibly impressed by) We spent almost 4 hours working on two scenes, the Elysian Night song and Act 4 which involves Jasper playing cards with a ‘human’ actor (Somewhat technical but actually rather fun to do!)


(Short video of our time with Paul Piris)


On Friday we worked through Elysian Nights and Act 4 with the rest of the cast and ran half of Act 3 and all of Act 4. It was good to see the piece slowly but surely coming together and the results of our hard work from the week paying off.


Today has been my day off and although we’ve worked pretty hard I’ve somehow avoided having some very sore muscles and haven’t been too exhausted.


Tomorrow is when the piece really revs into gear. I’ve been asked develop, block and finalise the first scene of Act 1.


Then we will be sticking it all together and running it until it is ready for Wednesday night!


It’s pretty daunting and is going to in. But also pretty exciting. I could get used to working this hard and intensely with these incredibly talented people.


(And we also have four bakers, including myself, in the company. So far I’ve made banana bread and Mark brought some of his Thanksgiving pumpkin pie!)


Basically, what I’m trying to say is, let’s do this!


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The 4 workshop showings have sold out, almost all before we even started rehearsals, but you can find out more information here:


Also check out the brilliant (and brilliantly up-to-date) blog of composer Paul Shapera :

(Where I stole most of my videos and photos from)


One thought on “Dolls of New Albion – Week 1

  1. Pingback: Week 1 From A Puppet(eer)’s Perspective « The Steampunk Opera

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