I had a workshop this afternoon with Faulty Optic - whose work I'm finally going to get to see (tonight) after years of having heard of them and liking the look of their puppets very much.
The first auspicious sign for the afternoon was the difficult morning I had which meant I was only too pleased to escape my desk for puppet play. (Not with my own)
The second - dry enough to cycle to the university.
So, the workshop. We walked into the Nuffield Theatre space to a table piled high of puppets for us to touch. Latex heads, foam heads, rubber bodies, wooden bodies. Although our first bodies were made from black bin bags.
This was so we could get the hang of breathing. Puppets breathing can cover a multitude of happenings. Slow focus, obvious intent and breathing.
Much much harder was wortking with a partner to manipulate a puppet - one on head and hands, one on feet. I think this was more to do with our unfamiliarity with each other than the actual manipulation. We were improvising a lot of the sequences and that needs an understanding of each other. Slow clear gestures. The more space around a puppet, the greater the balance the puppet has, the stronger the evident emotion.
Eye contact - between puppets (and audience) - was astonishingly strong. Effective. There is going to be no getting around the detail of eyes for Moonboy. The scariest element.
When we got to make our own rough puppet to manipulate I had an instinct for ears. Jessica Rabbit my partner said.
I liked the idea. Simple and we had a caricature straight away. And despite her having a scrunched up newspaper head and a bubblewrap bosom she was gorgeous.
And then the penny dropped. This is why I loved puppets so much. They work on simple exaggerated principles. They're made for melodrama.
And then another penny dropped. Our puppets were silent. All the shows I had absolutely loved at Skipton had been silent or at least wordless.
Was I shooting the puppet in its foot by wanting to write words for it?
Was I setting myself up for some overlarding wordy crass?
Would I be better off separating my poetry from the puppet?
I would have thought I needed strings to tie myself into these kind of knots.