I was asked back in August to help design some shadow puppets for Bristol Opera’s next production The Cunning Little Vixen. I was approached by Roxana Haines (Who also puppeteered in the other group at the Puppet Centre Trust’s Puppetry and Opera event and who was in my group during the Directing for Puppetry workshop) to design the character of the Vixen for a dreamy sequence (The rest of the show is performed by actors). She had a clear idea what she wanted; she wanted a 3D puppet that had colour and could run.
First I tried using wire (which I had seen being used with great effect in the Little Angel Theatre’s The Tempest) which was a complete pain! The wire didn’t behave itself very well and refused to be bent into any shape that resembled a vixen or any animal! So that idea was dumped.
I then went onto to card, which I am more familiar with. I fiddled about and quickly taught myself through Pinterest about using nets and how to make 3D geometrical shapes, something I haven’t thought seriously of since secondary school but has probably the most useful thing I’ve learnt all year.
But Alas, she was a tad complicated to be replicated in the short amount of time Roxana had (in which she also had to direct and make several other puppets) so we decided on a 2D puppet design would be easier and better.
More in my comfort zone, I quickly made out of a more studier cardboard, a big vixen, with moving leg (I figured having a back leg might be too much and require more puppeteers, besides it’s amazing what you can leave out of a puppet and the audience will happily fill in the details) and orange and red cellophane to provide her with a bit of colour.
… But I was enjoying what I was discovering with the 3D vixen that I desperately tried to make her design easier. Instead of using a net I made two side view cut out of the Vixens head and connected them with another long piece of cardboard along her snout and the top of her head. I then added acetate to the insides to make her colourful
But due to time constraints she decided on using the 2D puppet vixen design but I’m still very proud of the 3D Vixen head and it may feature in my work at some point. I just wish I had the space to put her somewhere!
The Cunning Little Vixen will be performed at the Redgrave Theatre Bristol on the 19th October