Innocence & Experience

So this week I will be starting the R&D stage on a very exciting project that has been bubbling away since January.

As I’ve said previously in this blog, I became an Associate Artist of Indomitable Productions  and I will be working on my first piece with them –  ‘Innocence & Experience’. I’m pretty excited, particularly to be working with director Roxana Haines who has always impressed me with her eye for technical and emotional detail (She also was a essential outside-eye for Sort Of Theatre’s Buttons)

The piece combines Puppetry and Opera (a combination I’m rather familiar with) with two puppeteers, one tenor and an oboist. Oh, and one puppet a baby.

Well I say opera, technically it’s a song-cycle that is being turned into a sort of pseudo-opera…

So far we’ve been discussing a few ideas we want to explore and I have been working on a prototype puppet.

Now, this is the difficult things with R&D and puppets, especially as we are exploring the opera in a very new and experimental way. We have nothing to base our work on and we are trusting the prototype puppet to be able to do everything we want to explore during the R&D process. At least Roxy is very clear on the character she wants the puppet to portray, so it is not a case of creating different characters in the devising process (Which was one of the challenges with Buttons for example)

Luckily, the prototype was only the 3rd of a few test puppets and only took 4 hours to make, so creating the next puppet shouldn’t take too long.

 

But it is always a challenge for the puppet to keep up with the devising process and the creative energy

We’ll also be using an OHP so puppets and visual can be made very quickly.

But for now I have to trust my making abilities and have fun developing the baby from the prototype.

Losing Joy

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So here she is,  puppet for Losing You the music video I am creating for Paul Carrack. She took about a 2 days to make.

Her face is made out of a tube, cut into the shape of a face and painted with chalkboard paint – I had some left over from some other projects.

I didn’t want to cover her completely in chalkboard paint as I wanted her ability to change her appearance and emotions to be exclusively on her face

Her arms are made out of rope covered in black card, her torso was carved out of foam and covered with black card (slightly patchwork-ed, I will admit but it adds to her charm) her legs are rope covered in cardboard then more black card.

Oh and of course lots of glue, ALL the glue

Her arms and head are pretty articulated while I decided to keep her legs quite fixed to keep her stable (I have been planning to puppetry her by myself as the project needs to be done quickly) although they are bent a little so there’s some scope to movement (he sorts that puppets do by themselves without much input)

She also has a bit of elastic in one hand so that she can draw on herself with a piece of chalk. In the other hand she has some black foam so she can wipe her face

Oh and her name is Joy and she was named by Guy Withers – one of the co-founders of Indomitable Productions

So now I’ve made her, I need to discover what she can and wants to do for the video

And then on to filming

How exciting!

 

Losing You

So straight after Buttons I’ve got stuck in making and devising some puppetry for a music video.

It’s for Paul Carrack, singer-song writer, extremely talented touring musician, who has performed with Ace, Squeeze and Mike and the Mechanics, among many many more as well as producing an incredible discography of his own songs, described as the Man With the Golden Voice…

He also happens to be my dad

Should be obvious, You don’t get many Carracks around

My dad had always been a creative inspiration for me. He’s worked incredibly hard to carve a very successful career and is a complete natural at what he does. I couldn’t imagine him doing anything else and that’s the same way that I feel about puppetry. He’s also supported me fully to forge my own career in the performing arts and for that I will always be grateful to him.

He also picked me up from the airport at 2am in the morning when I came back from Poland (When we originally thought we were landing at 10pm – yeah thanks fog in Krakow) So, yeah, he’s a great Dad.

Alas his music genes skipped missed me

But I suppose I’m very good with my hands and got hit full force with the performance gene.

Anyway

Dad approached me last year-ish to do a music video for him for one of his singles off his latest album Rain Or Shine and I quickly agreed (secretly I have always wanted to do something like this and was just waiting for the right chance to pop along)

At the start of this year (because it can take a while to decide which single will be best, apparently it’s up to a lot of other people) I was given the track Losing You by Brenda Lee.

This song is as beautiful as it is heart-breaking. As the title suggests, it’s about losing a loved one through a break-up of a relationship, that is both gradual and sudden, a love that has ended yet there it still exists in some respect.

Now, the song is full of splendid imagery and I could of gone for a very literal interpretation (I can’t help but think it would have looked amazing with shadow puppetry) but I decided instead to explore the essence of the song.

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Here’s my mind-map. I love a cheeky mind-map

My first decision was to go with a table-top style puppet to really give some life to the song, exploring through ‘3D’ rather than ‘2D’.

My next decision…. I can’t quite remember what came first…

 

I knew I wanted to make a puppet with a chalkboard face. This is something I had explored during Buttons and at one point I we used our moleskin journals as mini ‘chalkboard’ (this might be slightly sacrilege to some journal purists, but it did look awesome)

There was something so beautiful about drawing, rubbing out and refreshing on a surface, particularly how there was always a smudge of chalk still left. It made me think about how memories are constantly revisited and changed after losing someone, they never quite disappear.

 

I also was quite interested in the stages of grief -shock, bargaining, denial, depression, anger and acceptance – which anyone who goes through a loss, in what ever capacity, will go through. It’s a very human thing in fact it kind of process that you are human. Avoiding fully experiencing these emotions can be more damaging. And I was interested in how these emotions take hold of someone, changing them in a way and leaving there mark.

Here’s me combining both chalkboard, grief and testing out how to show emotion, clearly and subtly. And trying to rediscovering some drawing skills along the way.

But I wanted there to be a sense of hope. (I’m very big on hope) and do I wanted to explore how loss brings about a chance to reinvent oneself and a chance to find who you are. This puppet can literally discover and then draw who she is.

And who is she?

Well that’s for the next blog post when I’ll talk about making her

A couple of weeks ago myself and Dana went to Brunel University (of which we are alumni) to show a work in progress excerpt of Buttons for the drama staff and students.

What I didn’t expect was one of my former tutors giving me a book, because she was unable to turn up to the show.

Not just any book but one on puppetry (of course) and a new one at that. This is quite a luxury. I remember when I first got the puppetry bug I was frustrated at the lack of current books on puppetry. Brunel library had many two books and I remember one was from 1969. I mean it was still important but a lot has happened since then.

So here it is Aspects of Puppet Theatre by Henryk Jurkowski (a former professor at Krakow and Warsaw superior Schools of Theatre – Krakow?! I was there in January, it must be a sign!)

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This is the story of book that I would have killed for when I was studying for my B.A.

If I had discovered this in 2010 when I first tried puppetry I would have had one of those moments of theatrical enlightenment

I’ve already underlined some many quotes in red pen and its covered in sticky labels and I’m not even half way through the first chapter.

I didn’t realise that puppetry had been studied to a great degree in Germany! There are so many names I’m going to have to look up

And people did experiments with puppets. This is what I want to do

Oh my I’ve missed studying!

As I go through the expect some little quotes and maybe a few musings sparked by this book, hopefully a bit more eloquent then all this initial excitement.

Hopefully not essays but I suppose I should get back into practice of writing them

Please bare with my ramblings but this is so exciting! I’ve realised I’m not just a lover of puppets but a full blown nerd of them.

Buttons

Last Sunday, I went to see Faust(redacted) (part off the FIRST Festival) at the Little Angel Theatre with Dana Segal (co-founder of Sort Of Theatre).

We sat in the familiar pue like seats, a brand new show with a big old exciting set in front of us. But it felt different. A good different

And it’s because a little under a week myself and Dana had been standing on that stage performing Buttons.

What an adventure is been, literally, metaphorical, emotionally, all the ‘allys’.

We started with the idea of adapting Art Spielgalman’s Maus but eventually came to the decision to create our own show exploring the themes of war, family, memory and the events of the Holocaust.

(That’s been our copy since September 2013 and those words have been etched into my brain)

We’ve been to Poland, to Auschwitz, Dana had travelled back and forth between Essex and Hertfordshire through Central London to devise and rehearse and we had a hectic journey round the A40 and the M25 to get to the theatre

We’ve devised at the Roundhouse, my house, my dad’s studio, Brunel University, Dana’s house and on a farm

I’ve made scores of puppets and bought and lost many buttons.

I’ve smashed the head mirror of my Over Head Projector

We bought a slide projector

We’ve laughed

We’ve cried

We ate so much food

We’ve become better friends

We’ve had two outside eyes and a composer

We got to know the Little Angel Staff so well we started to give them nicknames

The Little Angel has left is mark on me

We made everyone scones

And all we ended up was a show I can be extremely proud of.

It’s been one hell of a journey. I can’t wait to see where it’ll take us next

Stay tuned for more news on Buttons

Take Me to Your Workshop Leader…

After the success of the Dinosaur Sock Puppet workshop I led last year, I will be returning to the Compass Theatre to lead yet another puppet making workshop.

 

This time the theme will be SPACE and I will be teaching kids between 5-11 to make an Eggbox Alien Puppet

The workshop will take place Thursday February 20th

More info here:

http://www.compasstheatre.co.uk/index.php/events/space-day-interplanetary-craft-workshop/