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Posts from the ‘video’ Category

The Making of a Frog

December 23, 2013


Another wonderful glimpse into a puppet-maker’s process as Jan Zalud introduces his mock-up of The Frog for my forthcoming production of The Frog & The Princess.  I just love how he uses proportion and the resistance of the joints to capture the frogginess of a frog.

In the final puppet – not seen in this video – Jan also incorporated resisting blocks into the shoulders which not only prevent the puppet’s front legs from twisting but also allow it to squat on its own without being manipulated.

And how The Frog loves to squat … at the moment he is peeping up at me from inside a bucket beside my chair.  Just like the real frog I once found in a watering can.

The Princess: a puppet and her inner workings

December 13, 2013


A rare opportunity to see inside a puppet as Jan Zalud talks about the process of making The Princess for my forthcoming show The Frog & The Princess (premiere 15 February 2014, Norwich Puppet Theatre, uk).

See how this wonderful puppet maker gives shape to ideas and solves some challenging technical problems.  Essential viewing for anyone interested in Hans Jürgen Fettig’s mechanisms for stand-alone table-top puppets.

Can a house be a puppet?

July 9, 2013


While preparing the courses I will be running at the Norwich Puppet Theatre Professional Development Summer School 2013, I have rediscovered Satu’s Smoke Puppet.

This snippet of film shows the first experiments by Satu Kivistö – then a first year puppetry student at the Turku Arts Academy – to animate smoke by using her breath as the control mechanism.

Watching the video brought back fond memories of that particular course on Making Puppets From Found Materials.

The challenge – or was it a provocation? – was there from the very beginning when someone asked “can a house be a puppet?”  Immediately the group was thrown into a discussion about what might make the difference between imbuing a house with life scenographically – be it realistically or symbolically – and bringing a building to life as a character.

A house can’t get up, look around, walk two steps and look around again – the (stereo)typical actions commonly used to show that an object has come alive – but nevertheless it can become a puppet. Well, it can as long as we agree that the term ‘puppet’ may include any object that gives the impression of being alive and not only a specially made figure or recognised puppetry technique (see wikipedia’s definition of object-puppet).

So when does a door slamming or water trickling down a window become the expression of a house-puppet-character and when does it simply create a scenographic mood or atmosphere? The same action can be interpreted either way. People seen through the window may be the inhabitants going about their lives or they could be imagined to be thoughts running round the house’s mind.

We eventually came to the conclusion that we would believe a house to be a character if the closing door was understood to be its reaction, decision or some other emotional response and that an object becomes a puppet if it is believed to have thoughts, feelings and a will of its own.

In the video, Satu’s smoke puppet had only just been invented and was still being tested to see what kind of movements it could it make and how these movements might be interpreted in emotional terms. The next step would be to create a situation in which it could act and react. As far as I know, Satu’s smoke-fire project is still waiting to come fully to life.

If you are interested in giving life to puppets and objects – be they a crafted figure or a found material – you might be interested the masterclasses being held at Norwich Puppet Theatre Professional Development Summer School 2013 (Norwich, UK).

Manipulate and Play with Liz Walker (3-4 August) will develop technique, expression and play by using two person puppets, materials and objects to create short improvisations based on character and movement.

plastic_princessWhen Objects Come to Life with Rene Baker (12-13 August) shows different ways to convey the impression that a puppet has its own thoughts and feelings.

Making Puppets From Found Materials with Rene Baker (15-16 August) draws inspiration from the object’s intrinsic qualities to develop a character.

For further information or to book a place, please visit Norwich Puppet Theatre’s website or call on 00 44 (0)1603 629921.

What people had to say about a previous When Objects Come To Life masterclass:

“Rene’s love and passion of puppets is very inspirational (And infectious!) Great deal of inspiration – and very useful tools to take home and use!”

“This masterclass has really helped me develop my understanding of the puppet and how its movements and intentions can be read, which I feel will be very beneficial to me as I progress in my learning of all things puppet!”

“What a wonderful gentle way Rene has of guiding us through the techniques of animating puppets. There was no tension, just caring encouragement”

The Smile

December 29, 2012


The Smile happens when a puppet comes alive for the first time. It happens to new puppeteers and to experienced puppeteers getting to know a new puppet.

The Smile comes at the precise moment you lose the sense that you are moving an object with your hands and it suddenly feels that the puppet is acting by itself and all you can do is go along with what it wants.

Bringing objects to life is a wonderful sensation and when the puppet takes off you often can’t help but smile.

These clips are from my classes teaching puppeteers and actors at the Institut del Teatre (Barcelona) and Turku Arts Academy (Finland).

Exercise in anthropomorphism

November 8, 2012


As a continuation of yesterday’s post about anthropomorphism and puppetry, here is an exercise in interpreting nature. The leaves were filmed from my balcony in Turku (Finland) yesterday lunchtime.

The best is to first watch and see what occurs to you. The imagination works better without being told what to do.

And if you would then like to analyse the “performance”, here some focuses that may be useful for puppeteers:

  • Watching the leaves as a group or following an individual leaf gives different information.
  • How does the wind cause the leaves to move and how does their shape affect the movement?
  • Interpret the leaves imaginatively: find atmospheres, characters, stories, feelings.
  • What creates these impressions? What role do rhythm and space play?
  • What attracts your attention?  Why?
  • How could you re-create one movement or the whole atmosphere as live puppetry animation? (not necessarily with wind and leaves).

Please feel free to comment or share what you see in the leaves.

Puppets, objects and materials in performance


An overview of different ways I work with puppets, objects and materials in performance.  All the direction and most of the design is mine but some puppets and stage designs are by other people. If you would like to know more about the shows, actors or puppets, please get in touch via the contact form.

The Turku Diva

October 2, 2012


A short film insert made for the Thalia Gala 2011, the Finnish theatre awards ceremony. For more information about the event and the performers click here.