STEP UP Creatives Ensemble: Using a Framework for Thinking About Space Workshop / Puppet Workshop

Saturday was our last session of 2012 for STEP UP Creatives. Altogether after me now…aww! Still, we’ll be back in the new year and I would like to take this chance to wish you a very Merry Christmas and all of the mince pies, Queen’s speeches, baubles, (cheeky tipples), hugs and fireworks you desire!

Using a Framework for Thinking About Space

What links a love filled festival, a room above a pub, a sun dappled moment abroad, a TV studio theatre production in a High Holborn warehouse, Austrian cow bells and Niagara Falls? For us, they were all vivid memories of spaces we had visited. Some were places we had been to this year, some were places we had been to many times and some were places that were not much more than sharp, strong fragments.

Using a Framework for Thinking About Space Workshop

Tilly asked us to draw these distinctive places whilst having a framework in mind. The framework included questions such as: how did you enter and exit the space? What was the smell like? Was it public or private? What was the lighting like? By doing this, we were able to visualise the spaces in a way which meant we could clearly (if not accurately!) depict the moment to the rest of the group. After discussing our memories, each chosen for very personal but very different reasons, we then re-imagined other people’s spaces on paper, as if they were to put on stage. I’m no artist or designer, but I thought this was a really imaginative way of approaching set design as you could focus on boiling down the core elements of a space and then interpret them in a practical way for an audience.

Puppet Workshop

In the afternoon, we were joined by the lovely Sue Pyecroft and her beautiful menagerie of puppets. Before we got the chance to play with them though, we were introduced to the basics of working with puppets. After warming up our hands with quirky games, we were given a soft tennis sized ball each. This was our first ‘puppet’ and stuck on the end of our fingers they quickly developed personalities. Like rapidly maturing newborns, they first learnt to wave and nod before walking and then finally jumping around. Sniff, they grow up so fast!

Puppet Workshop with Sue Pyecroft

We paired up and began to create our own mini-stories. I worked with Chris and he came up with the great idea of a lion and its prey. Thankfully, my water buffalo got away in the end, although several of the others had less peaceful fates. I tried to think like a water buffalo, drink like a water buffalo, breathe like a water buffalo, BECOME a water buffalo…well, at least with my right hand. Maybe it wasn’t a life changing performance, but I think it was a cute skit.

Puppet Workshop with Sue Pyercroft

In a circle, we then shaped a plastic bag into a creature, or just a unique movement. It became a vacuum cleaner, a jellyfish and other strange creatures and non-beings. If you’re ever bored in a queue in Sainsbury’s, this is a great way to test your imagination and pass time, though don’t hold me responsible for any funny looks.

Next, we made our own puppets in groups of three out of scraps and bits and bobs. Ellen, Charlotte and I made a scaredy-cat dragon type monster, Jen, Theresa and Emma made a slow and thoughtful elephant and Tilly, Chris and Dickie made something which I think was a kind of bird designed to win a Darwin Award but was actually quite terrifying!

Puppet Workshop with Sue Pyecroft

Then we got to play with the puppets. Horses, hares, lion cubs, a scary monkey, a slinky snow leopard, a naughty little boy named Max and a big, hairy Wild Thing were a few of the stunning puppets we were privileged enough to play with. They must seen to be believed!

Top Puppetry Tips

  • Slow things down – you have restrictions and fewer movements using a puppet so slowing actions make them more visible and give a greater impact.
  • Be subtle – although you might think you need to exaggerate, a gentleness of touch is more effective.
  • Remember subconscious actions – you have lungs that breathe for you, but puppets need to breathe too and you’re in charge of that and other subconscious actions that you maybe don’t notice you do but will bring life into your puppetry.
  • Look at your puppet – if you’re on stage with your puppet the audience will naturally want to look at you. Keeping your focus on your puppet keeps your audience’s focus on it too.

We learnt many more things besides even in a short afternoon, but now it is time to love you and leave you. See you in 2013!

Elanor Parker, STEP UP Creatives Ensemble 2012/ 13

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