Puppetry Intensive Training

How would you describe the current project you’re undertaking?
It’s a new musical called The Grinning Man and it’s a dark romantic fairytale in which a young boy called Grinpayne is given a maniacal grin, and the story tells of his discovery about where he came from and who inflicted the horrible cut upon his face.

What are your roles and responsibilities in the show?
I am one of the puppeteers who brings Mojo, the wolf, to life. He is a guardian and protecter of Grinpayne’s family. I also play a disgruntled, conservative Archbishop called Kupsak whose only desire is to uphold the values of the rich getting richer.

Have you worked with Gyre & Gimble before?
This is my first project with Gyre & Gimble and I am loving it!!! 

What training have you had, and in what skills?
I trained in musical theatre, but have since mainly worked in puppetry for theatre and in motion capture.

How did you find your way into puppetry?
My first job was the arena show Walking with Dinosaurs operating several life-sized dinosaurs, and from there I fell in love with it.

What previous performing experience have you had?
I’ve been lucky enough to work on Walking with Dinosaurs with Global Creatures, puppeteer both Joey and Topthorn in War Horse for Handspring Puppet Company and now The Grinning Man with Gyre & Gimble. Also, over the last two years I have also worked extensively in motion capture working on numerous films and video games, including Dunkirk, The Avengers and Call of Duty.

What do you think makes puppetry such a unique performance discipline?
As an audience member, you can’t help but always be on the puppet’s side. If it’s an animal, for example, the human desire to know that that creature is going to succeed is so strong. With simple techniques, such as breath, weight and eye line, puppeteers can truly make an audience believe that this creature is alive and so it becomes a unique experience for each individual audience member, and one that they want to go through again.

What are the joys and challenges of bringing a puppet to life?
I enjoy exploring the thought processes in a puppet. Trying to walk the line between a thought that is easy to read and one that is more complex is the biggest challenge for me. It can become very easy to blur what the intention of the puppet is by doing too much, so maintaining the ethos of less is more, is the hardest thing to accomplish as a puppeteer.
When working in a team, the moments of complete togetherness and instinct of movement are the biggest joys because they haven’t been spoken about, they’ve just happened by being completely focused on both the puppet and each other.

What career ambitions do you have for the future?
I really want to be involved in the forefront of puppetry for as long as I can, and pushing the limits of what is theatrically possible is a huge desire of mine. We hope as actors that we can breed more work from work, but I honestly treat every job as if it’s my last so that I enjoy every minute, and if something comes along afterwards, it’s a bonus.
I have young children, so creating a world of imagination for them through my work is my biggest ambition, so they can grow up wanting to see the things that I am doing or have done -whilst knowing they have a dad who’s also a dinosaur, horse, or, in this case, a wolf!

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I come from a very military family and went to a military school, so I always wanted to join the Royal Marines.

Which five people, living or dead, would you invite to a dinner party?
Gary Player, as I’m a huge golfer and he is a great personality.
Tom Hanks, my favourite actor.
Noel Gallagher, my favourite musician
Mickey Flanagan, my favourite comedian.
Reece Witherspoon, what a goddess!

What inspires you?
I’ve always said I don’t have any particular person who inspires me and that is still true, but there are moments of performances which have kept me hungry to perform. Seeing a show like War Horse made me want to be in it and watching actors like Tom Hanks in films such as Bridge of Spies keeps me wanting to act. I don’t look at the same thing to inspire me, there are always moments that just keep that fire going.

What makes a great piece of theatre?
Being able to take an audience somewhere that they will always want to go back to, whether it be through the music of the piece, or a certain character that they like. The show has to grab you instantly so that you don’t want it to end!

The Grinning Man is playing at the Trafalgar Studios in London until 5th May, more information and ticket booking can be found HERE