Dolls of New Albion – Week 2

And just like that, the show is over.

With eight days worth of rehearsal and four performances, we were always that we were short on time. But when you put so much effort, time and life into a short intense period it feels weird when it all comes to an end. It isn’t just the rehearsal and devising process that we managed to pack in, but the emotional/cognitive process and performer go through: Learning the ryhtmns of the show, feeling uncertain, learning blocking and then finally relaxing and trusting ourselves with the performance.

But we bloody well managed it.

After a days break, we were straight back to the Oval House Theatre and working hard. For me and Faith Brandon (fellow puppeteer), Sunday involved having another chance to tackle the City of New Albion and it’s realisation of it through shadow art and puppetry (Jasper the puppet was drying against a radiator after having some last finishing touches being made to his appearance) With the OHP, a coat rail, a gauze and many different props myself and Faith had five hours to find what the City of New Albion looked like, how we would bring it to life and what was our role; we’re we merely puppeteers, or scavengers of these objects? What objects cast what shadows, what does a bottle cast, how can we combine them and how could we use perspective? Then we had to find a fluid way of building the city with the same rhythm that it is describe in with the first song (In a future version the City would be continually broken down and rebuilt at the beginning of each Act representing the passage of time through the generations)

Sunday also involved our first look at the Oval House Theatre Upstairs. We were told it was small. I had could never have guessed it was this small. It was definitely the dinkiest space I’ve ever been and there was a lot of worry and frantic thinking how we would fit the shadow puppetry would fit in. Eventually, after some negotiation, we were placed in the middle between the band. There wasn’t much space but enough.

Later on in the week we would find that the cityscape we had created in the rehearsal room didn’t necessarily translate in the theatre space and looked like a selection of objects and not the city skyline we were hoping for. We ended up building half of a static city that would then be revealed and the other half was built live in the space. Not the most perfect version I had hope for, but it was a compromise between time and creating an animated opening for the show.

Space-wise I wasn’t worried about Jasper. His blocking had been kept fairly simple, trusting that the puppet would be able to express and emote through mirco-movement. And I had a lot of faith in our puppet.

Wednesday meant one thing: dress run and then the first show in front of a paying audience. Little bits and pieces changed, such as ditching the costume us puppeteers were given and keeping to basic blacks (perfect in the black box) and a green ribbon to link us with Mikey Shearer, who was the voice of Jasper, who wore a green tie. We also finally had to attach an iPod with a short excerpt of Jasper’s voice on, to a speaker and into a puppet. We only had a few hours to practise with it.

Any worries I had had about the show were dispelled that Wednesday night.

(Apart from the iPod, which ran out of battery halfway through and so did not work for the Elysian Night scene, an accident that was incredibly well covered for. It worked every other night though!)

We received some brilliant feedback from the audience during a Q&A session we held after every night. We had some positive comments and there was some constructive criticism that was understandable. It was really useful to find out what how well the show was conveyed.

This was the reaction we got every night and I was thrilled to know that people (And quit a few of my friends) had enjoyed it so much.

People fell in love with Jasper, a good friend of mine was brought to tears and wanted to see more shadow art. Oh the ideas are there, but we just needed the time and the money to implement them.

Which, with any luck, someone will be able to offer to us. This was one of the goals of the performance. I think we showed them there’s potential in the show and I hope I’ll be there is realise it.

(I have now added a new page on Dolls of New Albion where I have posted more photos and videos)

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)

November is Opera Month!

Apparently November is Opera month for me!
Im puppeteering in two shows in London next month.

For the Empress’s Feet (As apart of the Puppetry in Opera Event) at the Barbican next Friday November 9th email:  Also includes a showing of King Harold’s Saga
For Dolls of New Albion (A Steampunk Opera) at the Oval House Theatre 29th Nov- 1st Dec visit:

Dolls Of New Albion – A Steampunk Opera

Last Saturday (27th October) I went to the Central School of Speech and Drama for my first puppetry audition for a fantastic sounding newly composed Steampunk Opera called ‘Dolls of New Albion’


And I am incredibly thrilled to say I was given one of the puppeteer roles! I will be leading the creation of the City of New Albion through the use of object manipulation (And perhaps some other forms of puppetry found through some experimentations) I will also be puppeteering the character of Jasper, a man who is brought back from the dead in the form of a ‘doll’, who will be lead by the second puppeteer found on Saturday.

I’m incredibly happy to be chosen as this is a show I would have grabbed tickets for if my audition had been unsuccessful. And it’s a great boost to my puppet ego to get work from my first audition!

I’ve already received the full opera and I am listening carefully to the epic world I will need to create. I was listening to it on my iPod as I walked my dog this morning and I already feel some ideas brewing.  I’m so excited to start work and I’m already making some sketches inspired by the music.

I’ll be getting my rehearsal schedule soon, meet all the wondrous singers, get more aquainted with the director Mark Swetz and designer Lily Arnold. I will start working soon after I finish the Puppetry In Opera event (I think it really helped to be apart of that!) so it’s going to be a very busy month!


We will be performing at the Oval House Theatre in London from 29th November – 1st Dec


For more information on the show please visit: