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Posts from the ‘devising performance’ Category

Emotional Space and the Puppet

April 4, 2018


Earlier this year I collaborated in an extraordinary research project called The Emotional Space and The Puppet. Here is a short article about the work written by Joy Haynes, organiser of the project.

The Emotional Space and The Puppet – by Joy Haynes 

Why tell a story using puppets? For me, they provide a truly different perspective – a puppet evokes emotion yet does not have memory or  feelings of its  own. A puppet is entirely present and it is through action that an audience  empathises  with the character. 

Earlier this year, I organised a five day research project in which a team of theatre professionals worked with master puppeteer and director Luca Ronga, whose background and passion is the simplicity and directness of glove puppetry. His unique approach is to create emotional and physical spaces in an audience’s mind’s eye through physical gesture. 

 In an extraordinary process, we learned not to make the glove puppet mimic human actions or to charge them with enormous emotions but rather to translate the  grand  scale of the human experience into the poetic language of the glove puppet, which is delicate and playful.  

P1190635I discovered the power of starting from one clear point of reference, in which a single movement/gesture is expanded and through  its  repetition is taken away from the personal and transformed into something different and universal.  It was fascinating to see how character and situations were generated from single words, such as ‘ family’, ‘terror’, restlessness’, ‘solitude’.

With the absence of the traditional glove puppet booth, I observed the energy and focus of the  ‘actor’  presence becoming the emotional counterpoint or providing a context/playboard and, most interestingly, playfully embodying landscapes and architecture.  

Looking back on the research, I  realise  what a wonderful and instructive week this had been in developing my personal approach to puppet theatre and the devising process. 

If you’d like to have your expectations of puppetry challenged and your theatre-making skills developed through exploration of physical space as a means to translate inner emotional landscapes, Luca Ronga will be running a masterclass entitled The ‘Emotional Space’ at Norwich Puppet Theatre on the 15th & 16th April. Booking on Tel: 01603 629921.  Hope to see you there. 



Bringing the Metaphor to Life

February 9, 2018


Metaphor is as much a part of our functioning as our sense of touch, and as precious.

George Lakoff and Mark Johnsen (Metaphors We Live By)

Metaphors help us make sense of our lives and by describing one kind of experience in terms of another we make connections and achieve understanding. Metaphors both encapsulate meaning and make meaning accessible.

Our language is full of metaphor – we talk of being caught between a rock and a hard place, bottling up emotions, pushing the boat out – but a whole new dimension of meaning-making becomes possible when we use objects to give these metaphors physical presence and then manipulate them.

Imagine a letter being written. It is folded into a paper boat and launched. It returns as a bird, then changes into a hunched figure. With each back and forth the letter transforms and is eventually torn to pieces. The fragments become fish that swim back to the letter writer and place little kisses on their cheek. The writer blows the letter fragments away and they disappear.

This scenario is theatrical but it is actually an enactment, a personal ritual. What was written in the letter is known only to the writer and each transformation has personal meaning. It is their conscious choice as to whether the tearing of the letter is deliberate or accidental, resigned or furious, whether the ending is a decisive blowing away of the fish or whether the fish simply swim on by as the writer impassively looks on.

The course Bringing the Metaphor to Life is about creating meaningful play: part visual poetry, part personal ritual, part performance in as far as the scenarios are witnessed. This course is not so much about sharpening performance skills, although it will certainly hone our theatre-making craft, but is more about life skills. As we sensitise ourselves to the language of objects, materials, space, symbolic movement and use it to give presence to identities, relationships and situations, we bring experience into focus and gain tools with which to navigate difficult times or celebrate our realisations and achievements.

broken-teacup.jpgBringing the Metaphor to Life  with Rene Baker

Norwich Puppet Theatre, 24/25 February 2018

Box office: Tel 01603 629921

Listening to the material

February 3, 2012


Devising performance with objects.  A practical workshop for actors, directors and dramaturgs interested in visual theatre. Read more