Livestream performance, Fri 4 Sept
Welsh creative Emily Morus-Jones set up this virtual puppet theatre to support puppeteers across the arts industry, and the first of two streamed shows offered a fascinating insight into the world of puppetry, introduced by a Welsh puppet dragon no less.
The evening’s opening act, Drew Colby [top], uses shadow puppets created by hands against a screen: during lockdown, Colby has been busy teaching people how to do this on YouTube. Quickly changing from character to character, human to animal – including dogs and cats, a cow, a duck, a deer (this one especially intricate) and my favourite, a rabbit eating carrots – there was some great humour in there, with Presidents past and present moonlighting.
Second act The Puppet Barge use long-stringed marionette puppets to tell stories. Carved out of wood with intricate detailing, the delicate movements of the puppets created realism and tangible emotion between the characters, amounting to a moving story about the happiness of youth and the grounding of age. A poem by Alastair Reid also features, a real change from the tricks and cabaret often associated with these puppets, and there’s extra good news: lockdown has afforded The Puppet Barge time to do maintenance on their boat, where the theatre takes place (in case you were querying the name), and it’s ready to go as of Fri 25 Sept. (In a socially distanced way, and with the puppets onscreen for now.)
We were then fortunate to enjoy the company of puppet royalty [left]: Rainbow’s Zippy, plus Ronnie Le Drew who has been the voice of Zippy for many years. Le Drew offered insight into his entry to the puppet world (his recent book, Zippy And Me, shares more of this life), before some of the audience got to ask questions of the zip-mouthed one. We even got a Sooty and Sweep cameo, quite the bonus for audience members of a certain age.
Cardiff Animation Festival offered up colourful and vibrant fare, wizards and ducks made of what looked like coloured clay being the focus. The story, about a wizard having precious little success with his magic wand, was short but packed with visual imagery and very entertaining. Cardiff Animation nights are shown on their YouTube channel as a monthly free online screening; the next one is on Thurs 24 Sept.
Finally, Sarah Wright, who has been involved in puppetry for many years, shared some of her stories growing up in the Little Angel puppet theatre with her family, including godfather Ronnie Le Drew. The history of the theatre dates back to the 1970s, when it toured regularly; Wright’s turn showed the diversity of puppetry and the materials they can be made from, such as scrap metal.
It’s well worth checking out this virtual theatre, whose next live event is on on Fri 18 Sept. This is a great way to see it from your own front room: put your feet up and have an opportunity to participate too!
words EMILY EDWARDS
Pop-Up Palladium Chapter 2 takes place on Fri 18 Sept. Info: www.popuppalladium.com/lineup