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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

Making puppets from found materials

October 30, 2017


I will be teaching the course Construir títeres de materials encontrados  in Barcelona, 8-10 December 2017.   To book contact:

The course will be taught in Spanish.

Making puppets from found materials is about drawing inspiration from the object’s intrinsic qualities to create a character. Participants will explore a variety of “stuff” to discover what different materials have to offer and will learn to use form, texture and movement to inform the puppet’s character. Everyone will make at least two puppets and in the process will answer essential questions such as should the material be altered or left as it is? What type of joint will create the right kind of movement? Do I need a control mechanism and where should it be located? The course is suitable for all levels and no previous puppet-building experience is needed.

The Puppet’s Character

October 12, 2017


A few places still available on the course I am running at the Little Angel Theatre (London) 21/22 October 2017.  Booking: 0207 226 1787

Developing the Puppet’s Character:  A practical workshop to develop puppet characters that go beyond their sculptural appearance. The puppet’s basic personality is discovered by exploring its natural movement to reveal tics and traits, learn what it likes to do and how it likes to do it. Having established its basic character, the puppet’s changing thoughts and feelings as it acts out its story are conveyed through the precise use of rhythm. Participants will work on two different vocal characters, and be given tips for swapping quickly from one voice to another.


Animating Sounds

January 15, 2014


Behind the Scenes

Even the sound effects for the production have been animated. This is puppetry too! This clip is from a morning’s work at composer Jonathan Lambert’s studio, where he with performers Aya Nakamura and Gilbert Taylor and director Rene Baker worked on the nature sounds for the Princess’ journey.

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Rehearsals Day One: Play

January 9, 2014


Behind the Scenes

First day of rehearsals for puppeteers Aya Nakamura and Gilbert Taylor. In this little snippet they get to know the puppets, playing around with movement. There were many lovely moments as the puppets began to come to life, some that provoked tenderness and some that provoked laughter

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