Friday, 3 February 2017

In the Workshop...

... Inventing lip-sync mechanisms for Citizen Puppet.

Assistant Producer Alex takes a tea break with Associate Fiona Clift, to find out what it is she’s making...

A: what’s going on for you in the workshop?

F: We’re expanding the puppet cast of Citizen Puppet to about 20, so I thought this was a good opportunity to improve my sculpting skills and understand how mechanisms work. And by making the mechanisms and really knowing how the puppet works, my puppeteering skills improve as well.

A: what’s your starting point for making a puppet head?

F: The provocation for this one I’m doing now – the Mayor of Massiveville in CP - was Tom Hanks in Saving Mr Banks that I watched over Christmas. Something about his chubby face and little moustache... it gave inspiration for strong features when sculpting the head.  He also has a comb over which feels very ‘in’ right now.

A: what is this stuff you’re brushing onto it?

F: I’m Jesmonite-ing – a two part material (powder mixed with water) that hardens over styrofoam to harden the head and protect it

A: CP is a ‘puppet verbatim’ piece, where the puppets have moving mouths?

F: Yes! You’ve got a lot of known moving-mouth puppets (Spitting Image, the Muppets) but not quite like these. Following experiments in the first run of the show (2015) we’re expanding on the bunraku model of puppet. The big breakthrough here is moving the mechanism from the head to further down the back of the puppet.

A: how has that pushed things forward?

F: Well, with just the head you get a bit obsessed with the puppet from the neck up. But by lowering the mechanism the puppet is more ‘centred’ and you’ve got better overall control of the puppet so you can concentrate on improvising as the character more. Before it was all isolated in the head.

A: When will the Mayor of Massiveville get his first outing?

F: We’re getting ready to test out the mechanisms through some workshopping next week, and the latest draft of the script. 

Can you spot the difference?

February's Puppet of the Month - Chamberlain from Le Rossignol

Chamberlain: Uh, ah – yes, yes! I am the Chamberlain! I am here. I am ready to commence the interview. Let us start.

You’re very efficient, Chamberlain. This isn’t how our puppet interviews normally run.

C: Well yes, but I am exceptionally organised and efficient and it is my job to do the introductions to court, yes – so – one of us needs to get this thing going do we not?

Maybe you can tell me a bit about your role at court?

C: I herald in visitors to the Emperor at the Imperial Court and I am often accompanied by the Cook – who is a wok - and the Bonze – who is a lantern – and we have good fun.

And you are... a scroll? How did that come about?

C: The music of the opera of Le Rossignol took the design team to Cubism, and in Cubism you have things where the parts are lots of bits of the same thing – you know, like the Violin Woman – and so the puppet design looked at objects and then those objects influenced the movement of the puppet. So I am a scroll and I was very popular with the puppeteers, yes I was.

And why was that?

C: Because I leap onstage in a dynamic and high energy way! Like a scroll unfurling. In the end a puppeteer called Valentin – who is a breakdancer – got to operate me. Lucky boy.

Violin & Candlestick - Georges Braque