very well dressed
The film maker and photographer Alexander Michaelis has been filming my studio process and in particular the approach I take towards designing and fabricating pieces such as Puppet Flutter - Flight is a Waltz.
Through the course of the film this mechanical butterfly is disassembled, polished, reassembled and then installed in the interactive mechanical plinth.
I had the chance to share my thoughts about this collaboration with Dominic Harris and my ideas and intentions for future 1/1 scale responsive poetic-mechanical pieces.
This film is currently in post production.
A created kinetic vessel contains and expresses life, such a mysterious and beguiling object demands the empathy reserved for the living rather than to be analysed as an un-breathing object.
The puppet-making-artist renders enough of the essential within the body of the puppet.
So that it is
of the subject,
but an object which in some way blurs a line.
Eliciting delight, as a solid object shivers and vibrates with impossible breath.
(Perhaps reminding us that life is not individually possessed but what we are immersed within)
What do I mean by poetic
some part of what I do has poetic as its essence
some part of essence has poetic at and within its heart
a moving body has soft and hard
through movement each element alters in relative physical relationship
this change is placed within time
outside of time there is no change
all is fluid
all is solid
alteration is potential
shared time is coexistence along time’s passing
the alteration in physical relationship between each element of a body is observed through the passing of time shared
this gifts a union
I share time passing with
what I observe
what I feel
what I see
what I hear
The essence surrounds this shifting
change at its heart
offering a semblance
some iteration of each part
then the poetic would be soft
the poetic is what can soften this solid definition towards the essential
I am in Saskatoon, Canada, teaching a puppetry intensive at the University of Saskatoon Drama Department.
While here I'm presenting three performances at the University Studio Theatre. These are pieces exploring characters I am very familiar with, I continue to experiment with timing, approach and an alive communication between what is happening on stage and those who are in the audience.
After the first of these performance I wrote down some poetic reflections on doubt.
like a solid
before and after
happens through this
and the freedom
holds and this safety
for so long protective
from this floating
whether success or failure
the same is the situation
here in front
The stage is a loaded space and place I find equally familiar and terrifying.
Every move I make is witnessed by the audience.
If I face my natural fear towards this exposure I can be playful and try different approaches.
My favourite stages allow me this freedom and one such venue is The Hive in Hackneywick, London.
On the 18th March I performed within a cabaret at The Hive and experimented with the delivery of hand puppetry, with four puppets familiar to me for many years.
I felt success and failure in equal measure.
In 2014 I was approached by a publisher to write a book on puppetry, My instincts at the time were that this was too soon for me and that I was not "qualified".
The publisher assured me that I would be suitable and so began a process of distilling ideas, concepts and techniques into written form.
The book never eventuated and I am left with many draft pages of what would have been a book.
I have now decided to share some of these "draft pages" of this book on puppetry which might have been, as to share with others was the essential purpose for my spending the time to write these words.
(I by no means whatsoever own these concepts, but I do ask that you please respect my authorship and so acknowledge this accordingly.)
Puppetry is an art form which intersects performance, sculpture, education, health, animation and exercise, it is a truly cross-over medium used by professionals and amateurs alike of all ages and all walks of life. When mentioned in conversation, puppetry very often inspires wonderful memories and strong long lasting recollections.
A puppeteer can spend a whole lifetime exploring the medium of puppetry and not get close to its limits.
Puppetry is amongst the most ancient of the performing arts and has been practised throughout most if not all of the world’s traditional cultures in a multitude of different shapes and forms, it is also a medium which continues to be at the cutting edge of technology and is integral within the creation of many of the most innovative contemporary films.
A puppetry performance can have a significant and transformational effect on its audience and allows its practitioners to explore the stage space and narrative without restrictions in regards to scale and movement which hold sway in other theatre forms.
In the creation of puppet theatre even the very laws of nature can be toyed with and manipulated such as time and mass. Gravity can be treated as a choice, so that characters may float weightlessly in mid air or gracefully move in slow motion, and then through the manipulation of the puppeteers return to a movement and weight of which the audience is familiar with.
This limitless range in regards to character and movement allows puppet theatre to express a fresh perspective and gives the opportunity to its practitioners to present the world, real or imaginary, in a different way free from the mundane and familiar while still using these as the subjects of this expression.
There are many reasons to explore the theatre of puppets and a diverse range of applications for puppetry within society.
Often the motivation for a person to begin the journey which is puppet theatre is from a deep set desire to communicate something which is impossible to be expressed merely with words; something which can not be effectively expressed by means of human performers, something that requires objects, shapes, colours and unusual and mysterious characters to do its expression justice.
The characters of puppet theatre may be smaller than a thumb or larger than a double decker bus, they may perform to a group of ten four year olds or accompany a music act and be seen by thousands of revellers, not to mention millions viewing on the screen large or small.
An audience may empathise with a young princess characterised by a puppet of two hundred years old and performed by an aged male puppeteer, or may watch in wonder as an entire epic is played out by a sheet of tissue paper.
Within health and education the ability of the puppeteer to externalise a character and their story makes puppetry useful as a method of discussing otherwise taboo subjects or issues which are sensitive and too-close-to-home for the teller.
In the exploration and creation of puppet theatre as much time is spent deciding upon useful limiting factors, in terms of scale, movement, timing, colour, shape as is spent on the dealing with actual real limits.
A puppet character can be a realistic expression of an actual person or a character with exaggerated features, equally a character may emerge from out of a pile of rubbish and having presented itself to the audience then return to this pile of which it is a part.
Within puppetry all styles and methods as well as ways of moving and manipulating have their place, and exist as equals. It is only when considering the essential reason and nature of the performance event that some can be considered as more suitable and appropriate than others, in view of this the simple sock puppetry which a parent performs during their child’s evening story time is as virtuosic as the most accomplished west end theatre performance puppetry, one is simply more appropriate in one context and the other in another quite different situation.
The medium of puppet theatre has stood the test of time so well for the simple fact that it is such an adaptive and intrinsically practical theatre form.
Taking the example of the travelling glove puppet performance where a show involving ten or more characters can travel the town on a bicycle or the globe on a single ticket and still deliver a piece of theatre which has in its line up representatives from a wide variety of ages, genders and ethnicities.
Puppetry is by its very nature eclectic and multitude.