Puppetry Intensive Training

How would you describe the current project you’re undertaking?
It rather defies categorisation. Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons: A Reimagining is a mixture of Bunraku-inspired puppetry performed to baroque classical music with a modern twist. But the music is not merely a soundtrack, it is the inspiration for the story and driving force behind the emotional journey of the characters.

What are your roles and responsibilities in the show?
I am one of 5 puppeteers who constantly switch roles and positions on the 4 human puppets in the show, as well as operating the cat puppet (and trying not to upstage anyone else). As well as these figurative puppets, we also manipulate abstract representations in paper of things like depression, thought and memories; just a normal 9 to 5 really.

Have you worked with Gyre & Gimble before?
Never met them before in my life! I worked with Finn and Toby on War Horse and since then have been in The Lorax and Running Wild at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.

What training have you had, and in what skills?
I trained in acting at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. The training covered many areas of acting including a strong focus on the physical aspect.

How did you find your way into puppetry?
I auditioned for Blind Summit Theatre’s revival of their show Low Life which mixed puppetry with acting and after working with them on a number of projects I got cast in War Horse.

What previous performing experience have you had?
I have mainly performed in theatre, but that covers a whole host of different types of production. Plays, musicals, opera and concerts. I’ve performed puppets ranging in size from a small marionette dog to a huge firebird. I’ve also worked on a few films and television programs either as a puppeteer, a movement artist or as ‘just’ an actor.

What do you think makes puppetry such a unique performance discipline?
It gives the audience an opportunity to really engage in the performance. Watching an actor can be quite passive, but with a puppet the observer has to do part of the work, part of the imagining that the inanimate object before them is alive. This therefore can mean they have a stronger connection to the story and emotions portrayed.

What are the joys and challenges of bringing a puppet to life?
In the case of a puppet operated by more than one person it is also a rare delight to see multiple brains and bodies all working in unison to bring a single character to life as well as to experience that from the inside. The challenge sometimes is the awkward and often painful positions one must get into in order to make the puppetry work best.

What career ambitions do you have for the future?
I hope to continue exploring and developing my puppetry experience as well as mingling it with the other performance skills I’ve gained over the years. I also hope that my body’s ability to scrabble around on the floor will last as long as my desire to work does.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I joined Chichester Festival Youth Theatre at the age of 10 and was bitten by the acting bug pretty much straight away. I was lucky enough to be cast in a number of main house plays while there and worked alongside professional actors who inspired me to go on and pursue a career as an actor.

Which five people, living or dead, would you invite to a dinner party?
Shakespeare, because I have so many questions and I’d love to hear ‘To be or not to be’ spoken as it was back then.
Mozart, because I’d like to meet a genius and he could provide musical entertainment.
Jim Henson, because he seemed to be the nicest guy who had a wonderful outlook on life and how to get that across, plus I could geek out about the Muppets.
Victoria Wood, because I grew up listening to and watching her skits and sketches, so much of her writing has entered my every day parlance.
Judi Dench so that she and Will could do a few scenes over the cheese and coffee.

What inspires you?
I’ve loved every show of Complicite’s that I’ve seen and think Mark Rylance is a wonderful actor. I’ve been inspired by the numerous shows I’ve seen at the Edinburgh Fringe over the years; though not enough to make and take my own show – that’s far too scary!

What makes a great piece of theatre?
A great story beautifully told; not too much to ask, eh?

Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons: A Reimagining is playing in the Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare’s Globe, London from 09 March – 21 April. More information and ticket booking can be found HERE