Mumblecrust Theatre: An Interview with Katie Underhay

TheTaleoftheCockatricekirstenmcternan-245Katie Underhay is a performer, designer and theatremaker. Since graduating from Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama she has performed in children’s theatre all over the country, created bespoke puppets for theatre and film and taught puppetry to children and adults alike. She is Co-Artistic Director of Mumblecrust Theatre and a Puppet Place Associate Artist. We caught up with her to find out what  she’s been up to and what’s next on the horizon.

(Right photo credit: Kirsten McTernan)


 

TheTaleoftheCockatricekirstenmcternan-203
Photo credit: Kirsten McTernan

It’s been a while since we spoke last. What have you been up to? Is ‘The Tale of the Cockatrice’ continuing to tour?

Well, 2018 is another crazy year for Mumblecrust Theatre. After Brighton and Edinburgh Fringe 2017 we contacted lots of theatres and arts centres to book our first national tour and this year we’ve got a busy schedule! The Tale of the Cockatrice has been touring since Christmas and we have tour dates booked into October and even the start of 2019. We’re going to the Lake District, London, Devon, Kent, Greater Manchester and lots of village halls around Somerset.

TheTaleoftheCockatricekirstenmcternan-137
Photo credit: Kirsten McTernan

We’ve just come home from another run at Brighton Fringe, part of our 2018 tour, which was a great success. We were even nominated for the Primary Times’ Children’s Choice Award! We didn’t win the award unfortunately, but after winning two at last year’s festival I can only say that 2 out of 3 ain’t bad! It was fantastic to be nominated and we also got a 5 star review from Brighton and Hove News, so we’re immensely proud of the show.

TheTaleoftheCockatricekirstenmcternan-086
Photo credit: Kirsten McTernan

You recently received your first ever grant from the Arts Council (congrats!) Can you tell us about that? What are your plans?

Thank you! Writing the application was a totally new experience for us. We applied for funding to support our tour this year, and also to help us bring the show to eight Village Halls/Community Arts Centres around Somerset. We’re both from Somerset and we really wanted to take the show around our home county and to some rural villages that don’t see a lot of theatre – particularly family theatre. We’ve already visited a few of our Somerset Village Halls, which were amazing venues run by amazing people. We really enjoyed taking our show into communities and being a part of something a bit special.

We brought in a few different consultants and lots of people and organisations offered support with the project, and I don’t think we would have received the grant without their help. It was wonderful to receive the grant on our first application, but writing it was a steep learning curve. It took a little bit of time to get into the head space of how to write an application, but now we’ve done one it feels so much more achievable in the future. It’s a big step for us as a company!

TheTaleoftheCockatricekirstenmcternan-215
Photo credit: Kirsten McTernan

Is there anything new in the pipeline?

We have lots of tour dates for The Tale of the Cockatrice this year, but we also have plans for a brand new show! It has been two years since we first started work on Cockatrice, so we feel it’s the right time to bring out something new. Hopefully this time next year we’ll be touring both shows!

We can’t announce very much yet as it is all very ‘hush hush’, but it’s going to be another family show with lots of puppetry, music and silliness! We’ve learned an awful lot in the last two years with Cockatrice, and we can use that experience to help us create the new show. We’re very excited!

The new show will be announced soon on our website (www.mumblecrust.com) and also across our social media (@MumblecrustUK on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) so keep an eye out! That’s also where you can find out about our upcoming tour dates for The Tale of the Cockatrice and the premiere of the new show!

 

Interview by Emma Windsor

 


Find out more about The Tale of the Cockatrice and future works at the Mumblecrust Theatre website, http://www.mumblecrust.com, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  To find out more about Katie Underhay and her work, visit her website: http://www.katieunderhay.com

Our Associate Artists are part of our wider community who use puppetry and animation as part of their practice. They work in a variety of settings from community arts to the film industry.

Want to become an Associate Artist? The scheme runs April-March each year and we have availability on the scheme for 18/19.  Download the application form here.

Advertisements

Wastebusters – Puppets, Recycling and Saving the Planet!

Puppets and children across the world are saving the Planet! Wastebusters is an organisation that promotes recycling and sustainability by creating online puppet movies and multimedia teaching resources. Wastebusters works in collaboration with Recycle Now and many other agencies, partners and NGOs to fight the war on waste.

34417990_2017573981647582_1756125678232666112_n.jpgJune 5th marked World Environment Day and to mark this important occasion Wastebusters created a new movie that will be dubbed into several languages and beamed around the world to raise awareness of plastic pollution. Puppet Place was lucky enough to be there to watch things in action.

At a studio in Shepperton there was the set of a space ship interior not unlike Dr Who or Star Trek. A small team of puppeteers crouched, stretched and jumped around the space with impressive dexterity. Whilst the material is educational it also has plenty of character and puppet slapstick comedy. There is the familiar style of Sesame Street, The Muppets or Furchester Hotel but their mission has a much more serious note. On this occasion the team are tackling ocean plastic waste.

Heading the campaign is Captain Busta, a blue space monkey, who works for the intergalactic Space Federation. His team are the excitable Cadet Boo, the fluffy musical Lieutenant Pong and sardonic Roach the cockroach. Captain Busta has been sent out to find a new planet after his own had been engulfed in waste. During his search across The Galaxies he and his team have discovered Earth. On realising where Earth was heading Captain Busta has made it his mission to help Earthlings do all they can to ‘Reduce, Reuse and Recycle’ before it is too late.

Captain Busta works in collaboration with young people across the world as his fellow Wastebusters. He has travelled to schools across the UK and worked with BBC presenter Maddie Moate to spread this important message. He meets and interviews Wastebusters who are doing all they can to help. More recently Busta travelled to South Africa to work with Takalani Sesame Street. Following this new film for World Environment Day Captain Busta informs me that there is much more in the pipeline! Watch this Space!!

 

By Josh Elwell

 


To find out more about the campaign check out https://wastebuster.global/ or check out Wastebusters website, Facebook or Twitter

Croon Productions: An Interview with Emily LeQuesne

P1020058Emily LeQuesne is one half of Croon Productions, a theatre company who are dedicated to making exciting, unpredictable and whimsical puppet theatre. She is also a scriptwriter, dramaturg and teacher. We sat down with her to find out more about her work, her background and to find out exactly what a dramaturg does..!


 

How did you get into puppetry?  What’s your background? 

I trained as a human actor! I was a lecturer in performing arts for a decade until I decided to give my full attention to my own work and ‘Croon Productions’ started to take off a bit.  The Croon team got into puppetry when we did a marionette manipulation course in Prague.  We had been making shows and walkabout that was prop and costume reliant and training in puppetry seemed a logical step.  We were lucky enough to be granted a bursary from Puppet Centre to help with the costs, and toddled off to Prague for a fortnight to learn how to manipulate marionettes. We fell in love with everything about puppetry and haven’t looked back!

I am also a scriptwriter, dramaturg and teacher.  I am currently a student at Bath Spa University, researching for a PhD: ‘Script writing for puppetry: towards a literary dramaturgy for Western contemporary puppet theatre’.

 

Mrs Archer waits for Harry
Photo credit:  Croon Productions

 

How did Croon Productions come about? Who is involved?

I started Croon Productions with my partner Pod Farlow (he is a visual artist and professional prop and set maker for theatre, TV and film.)  Croon started as a way to get into festivals! Back in the ’90’s, we had been attending festivals for many years and doing various jobs: on stalls, kids workshops, helping with the build but we wanted to do something that was creative so we created various walkabout acts and late night cabaret acts and Croon was born. We also produced a few cabaret nights in Bristol back in 2004/5 – ‘Cabaret Croon’.

We’ve created shows with and without puppetry.  Our puppet shows include: ‘Attack of the 59 foot woman’ ( a puppet version of the classic ’50’s B movie), ‘Noir: A Dick Privet Mystery’ ( An original show based on film noir) and  ‘Spaghetti!’ ( A spaghetti Western).

Noir. photo by Pod Farlow.
Photo credit:  Croon Productions

Our current show, MONSTER, is a ‘puppetry script experiment’ in process, and will form part of my own PhD research into writing scripts for puppet theatre.  I wrote the script alone and Tomasin Cuthbert Menes from Soap Soup Theatre is directing as the research experiment requires a director working from a puppet script that they have had no part in creating.

MONSTER explores the horror film genre with toy theatre.   It’s a Scooby Doo style romp through all your favourite shock flicks! In the show, classic cinematic monsters have escaped their retirement home. Who will save the world from this onslaught of evil?  Why does the car never start? Why the girl does ALWAYS fall over when she runs and why isn’t she wearing enough clothes?  MONSTER will be at the Barnstaple Fringe theatre festival on Thursday 28 June at 6pm, Saturday 30 June at 9.45pm and Sunday July 1st  5.45pm.  Then August bank holiday weekend, we will be at the Puppet Parlour at Shambala Festival.

MONSTER Croon
Photo credit:  Croon Productions

 

You also work as a Dramaturg…  What exactly is Dramaturgy? 

Dramaturgy can be a difficult term to define. There are a number of ways in which the term is used and the meanings can slightly differ if you are in the UK , Europe or USA.

A dramaturg can be either:

A production dramaturg – this is someone who is an extra pair of eyes on the production (who is not the director or a member of the cast). S/he researches elements of the show/narrative/ history that need refining and/or contextualising, suggests potential developments, contextualising and critical collaboration in development and rehearsal and performance.

Or a literary dramaturg – Script editing, criticism, feedback and development of format, narrative, character on the page.  This is what my PhD research is focusing on.

By ‘literary dramaturgy’ I mean the exploration, development and facilitation of the process of script writing. There is no formal technique for a literary dramaturgy specifically for puppetry.

Within contemporary Western puppet theatre, the canon is limited in terms of published scripts.  Historically, where scripts do exist, they are non-specific about puppetry, aside from a brief note or subtitle: ‘for puppets’ or they are a symbolic play script with no staging directions.   Most puppeteers create shows through a method of devising.

El Kapitan WANTED.photo; Pod Farlow
Photo credit:  Croon Productions

How then does one write puppetry performance that is narrative and character driven with no pre-existing input and what would a director or puppeteer need to see on the page when reading this script for the first time?  I am hoping to create a ‘tool kit’ to help people that wish to create scripts for puppet theatre as a lone playwright rather than a collaborative devisor.

Yikes! So, it’s a case of picking the definition that resonates with you and being prepared to constantly explain what the Hell it means!

 

Interview by Emma Windsor

 


MONSTER will be at the Barnstaple Fringe Theatre Festival on 28 June, 30 June  and July 1st , and at the Puppet Parlour, Shambhala Festival from 23 – 26 August.   For further information about Croon Productions, visit the website.  For further information about Emily’s work and research, visit her website

 

 

 

Puppetry In… Yorkshire! Beverley Puppetry Festival – An Interview with Kerrin Tatman

kerrin_tatmanAmongst the many puppetry performances and events Yorkshire has to offer, the Beverley Puppetry Festival is a highlight in the region’s calendar, boasting a vast array of puppet performances from over 30 companies in four venues and on the streets of Beverley.  We caught up with the festival’s Co-Artistic Director, Kerrin Tatman, to find out more about this iconic festival and this year’s shows, workshops and outdoor entertainment.  


 

Can you tell us a little about the background to the festival?  How did it get started?  Who is involved?

Beverley Puppet Festival is the largest festival of British puppetry in the world, when taking in consideration that it all happens in one location over one weekend. It is an important event for industry networking, for theatre bookers to see what is on offer and as a record of what contemporary puppetry is being made in this country. It is also a much-anticipated family-friendly event for rural Beverley and East Yorkshire, which has been recognised through winning a Remarkable East Yorkshire Tourism Award for ‘Best Small Event’ in 2015 and being shortlisted again in 2017.

Beverley Puppet Festival was founded by Anna Ingleby of Indigo Moon Theatre in 2005 when she ran a small event of just 5 companies as a response and fundraiser for charity work in Africa. The first festival was a popular success and Anna decided to hold another event in the following year, this time in conjunction with Beverley Arts Trust.

It is the first year the festival has been Co-Directed between Anna Ingleby and myself, where programming, budget management, fundraising and creative direction tasks are shared between us. The not-for-profit event is reliant on funding, sponsorship and a huge team of volunteers on the festival weekend itself. We are thankful to be funded by Arts Council England, East Riding of Yorkshire Council and Beverley Town Council.

 

 

What’s on in July and what are you most excited to see?  

The 2018 festival sees over 30 companies performing in Beverley across 4 main indoor venues and the town streets, with festival hubs at Beverley Friary, Flemingate Centre and East Riding Theatre. Although the main focus is still British companies, we will be joined by three companies from the Netherlands – Close-Act’s ‘Saurus’, TAM-TAM objektentheater’s ‘Rusty Nails & Other Heroes’ and t’Magische Theaterje’s ‘Exuvia’, as well as one from Hungary – Ettenoiram Travelling Puppeteer’s ‘The Tiniest Cellist’.

 

Mischief & Mystery in Moominvalley by Get Lost & Found
‘Mischief & Mystery in Moominvalley’ by Get Lost & Found

The festival is aimed at adults, children and families, and puppeteers. Our adult programme includes a UK premiere of Blind Summit’s ‘Henry’ – a dark comedy tackling grief issues, Northern companies such as Odd Doll’s ‘Seaside Terror’ and Headstrung’s ‘Freaky Sequin Puppet Cabaret’, as well as Stephen Mottram’s ‘The Parachute’. Our children’s programme has received special attention this year due to the inclusion of ‘Mischief and Mystery in Moominvalley’ by Get Lost & Found (everyone loves Moomins!) but also includes Lempen Puppet Theatre’s ‘Cardboard Carnival’, Strangeface’s ‘Beached’ and ‘Spaced’, Indigo Moon Theatre’s ‘Mermarella’, Drew Colby’s ‘My Shadow and Me’ and Silent Tide’s ‘The Adventures of Curious Ganz’, the latter fronted by Sarah Wright of the Curious School of Puppetry.

Seaside Terror by Odd Doll Puppetry
Odd Doll’s ‘Seaside Terror’

Our outdoor programme of 14 companies sees giant dinosaurs, giraffes and mystical gods roam the streets, as well as intimate performances from forest sprites, scientists, stuntmen and fossil collectors. We are also hosting children’s puppet making workshops from the Scottish Puppet and Mask Centre and an adult marionette making class from Sian Kidd. We see the return of the much loved ‘Little Fawn Caravan’ by Sokobauno and welcome for the first time ‘The Errant Stage’, which will host networking events and discussions. There will be a Puppeteers UK Networking Meeting at Beverley Friary Festival Hub on Sunday 15th July at 10am.

Exuvia by t'Magische Theaterje
‘Exuvia’ by t’Magische Theaterje

I am especially looking forward to ‘Exuvia’ by t’Magische Theaterje, ‘Seaside Terror’ by Odd Doll Theatre, ‘The Adventures of Curious Ganz’ by Silent Tide and ‘The Cloud Travellers’ by Judith Hope, but it is difficult to pick favourites from what is on offer!

 

This year you are joining forces with Moving Parts Arts to explore the theme of ‘transformations and journeys’.  What will this collaboration bring to the festival? 

Aside from the main programme, I am also really excited for the second outing of the Moving Parts Scratch Space, after debuting at Skipton Puppet Festival 2017. The Scratch Space will be in the Indigo Moon Theatre Tent at Beverley Friary on the 14th and 15th July and is aimed at giving UK-based visual theatre artists and companies performance opportunities at established events to help them improve work-in-progress work and gain essential feedback. Successful applications are each given £200 towards travel costs, accommodation, food and a festival pass so they can fully experience the festival.

Transmographiles by Hopeful Monster Theatre
‘Transmographiles’ by Hopeful Monster Theatre

For Beverley Puppet Festival 2018 we have five companies from all over the country presenting new work: ‘Finding Shelter’ by Flawed Mandrake Theatre, ‘Microbodyssey’ by Tatwood Puppets, ‘Little Sparrow’ by Laura Mathews, ‘Janet’ by Helenandjohn and ‘Where Shall I Live?’ by Cottonwool Corner. We are thrilled to include ‘Transmographiles’ by Hopeful Monster Theatre in our main festival programme as this show came through the Scratch Space at Skipton Puppet Festival 2017.

Aside from the Scratch Space, Moving Parts Arts has also partnered with Beverley Puppet Festival through producing assistance. Both Matt Wood and myself are from the Moving Parts Arts team, although I have also been involved in Beverley since 2014. In future festivals we want this partnership to grow much further to create a real linkage between Beverley and Newcastle in terms of producing, opportunities for artists and shared resources.

One of the major partnership tasks we have carried out so far is the make sure that Beverley Puppet Festival and Moving Parts: Newcastle Puppetry Festival occur on alternate years, both for funding and personnel sustainability. This meant moving the next edition of the Newcastle Puppetry Festival to the 6th-14th April 2019 (funding dependent). Our theme of ‘transformations and journeys’ reflects this new, strong festival partnership and acts such as ‘Mermarella’ by Indigo Moon Theatre, ‘Cardboard Carnival’ by Lempen Puppet Theatre, ‘Beowulf’ by Rattlebox Theatre and ‘My Shadow and Me’ by Drew Colby are just some of the lineup that imbue this theme and message.

The Adventures of Curious Ganz by Silent Tide
‘The Adventures of Curious Ganz’ by Silent Tide

 

We are currently running a Crowdfunder to raise £2,000 towards delivering this not-for-profit event and have about £1,400 left to reach our target. Please consider supporting the festival through this method and get some of our limited edition merchandise in return for your donations!

Check it out here: www.crowdfunder.co.uk/beverleypuppetfestival

 

 

Interview by Emma Windsor

 


Beverley Puppetry Festival runs from 13th – 15th July 2018, in Beverley, East Yorkshire.  You can book tickets and find out more about the festival at the website here: www.beverleypuppetfestival.com or on the Facebook page: www.facebook.com/beverleypuppetfestival

 

An Inside View on Vivaldi: An Interview with Ben Thompson

Josh Elwell talks to puppeteer Ben Thompson about this exciting new production. We look beneath the surface at the process that brings together a contemporary version of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons by Max Richter, a live sextet of musicians and a team of master puppeteers. The show opens this April and can be seen by candle light at The Globe Theatre.

DW8A5817 captioned.jpg
Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons at The Globe is an exciting collaboration between Gyre & Gimble, a team of master puppeteers (of which you are one), a sextet of musicians and the prolific contemporary musical artist Max Richter. Can you tell us how the collaboration came about and in particular how you yourself became involved in such an unusual project?

Toby and Finn (of Gyre & Gimble) wanted to create a show that mixed puppetry with music to tell a wordless, but still emotionally engaging, show. They approached the Globe with this idea and set about listening to a lot of classical music. They were introduced to Max Richter’s recomposition of Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ and knew straight away that it had the epic scope and dynamism they needed.

They held a number of research and development workshops to explore how such a piece could work. I’ve known Toby (Olié) and Finn (Caldwell) since I worked with them on ‘War Horse’ in the West End and have been lucky enough to work with them since on various different projects. They asked me to be a part of one of the workshops and after the last one I was offered a place in the cast.

From your perspective as a puppeteer how has it been working on a show that is a response to a piece of music? In what way has it been different to other projects you have worked on?

It’s actually been quite freeing because there really is no right answer and whenever we got stuck we just went back to the music and explored what it inspired in us. Most of the other projects I’ve worked on have been scripted and mostly fixed before rehearsals start. However, even within those shows, quite often the puppet I’m operating won’t have text (I seem to have done a lot of animal puppets in my time) and so the physical script needs to be discovered. The thoughts and emotional journey of the character mapped out. So in that respect this project is quite similar to others I’ve done.

ST109610 captioned.jpg

I know that you are a very accomplished and experienced puppeteer. You have worked on War Horse as well as with other companies like Blind Summit and with me at The National Theatre of Scotland. In what way has this project enabled you to play to your strengths? It would also be interesting to know in what way you have been challenged? What is it like performing to candlelight in The Wanamaker?

The atmosphere in the Wanamaker is just beautiful, but the candle light means you’re not able to focus an audience’s attention like you might with a lighting change/spotlight. Therefore the precision of the puppets’ movements is very important, so as to allow the audience into what the character is thinking or feeling, as well as having moments of stillness to draw their attention to something in particular. Coupled with this is the fact that the audience is on three sides of the stage, meaning that at any one time there’ll be some action that someone can’t see. So, as well as keeping the staging moving and taking in all sides and not just the front, as a puppeteer you have to be very aware of your own body; making more space than perhaps is usual between yourself and the puppet to allow for sightlines.

I knew and worked with Max Richter back in the early 90’s when we were fresh out of college and he was writing music for fringe theatre shows at Arts Threshold in Paddington under the leadership of the young director Rufus Norris. At that time he was full of inspiration and had a wonderful inventiveness. How does his recomposition of this famous piece of music lend itself to the art of puppetry? Has Max been involved and how have you worked with the music during the rehearsal process?

I’m not sure if Max’s recomposition lends itself specifically to puppetry, but it definitely does to theatre and storytelling. It has an epic scale to it with sweeping moments of passion and sustained levels of tension. Of course this is Vivaldi as well, but somehow Richter steps it up a gear. In that way I suppose it’s linked to puppetry in that puppets, particularly human figures like ours, are a heightened form of performance; they are essential as in they show the essence of something. There is no text in the show and so the music acts as the dialogue.

Max hasn’t been directly involved with rehearsals, but has given his permission to use the piece in a scaled down version with just 6 musicians which has been brilliantly rearranged by Bill Barclay, The Globe’s Director of Music. We’re hoping he approves of what we’ve done and that Vivaldi might also like what’s been done to his original.

The first thing we did at the start of rehearsals was to spread out a huge roll of brown paper, grab a load of marker pens and, with each of us taking a section of paper, we listened to the entire piece and drew/wrote/doodled anything that came to mind. Initially this could be quite abstract and disconnected, but then we repeated the exercise and made an attempt to create a narrative that covered the whole piece. From this process a basic storyline was thrashed out and we then set about creating the physical version of it. We would listen to a movement and then improvise a scene to it, repeating and finessing as we went. If we were ever stuck it always helped to go back to the music and see what it inspired.

ST100253 captioned.jpg

Perhaps you could tell us a little bit about how it has been working with your fellow puppeteers? It would also be interesting to hear about the process led by G&G’s Toby & Finn?

I’ve worked with a few of the other puppeteers before – or knew them at least – and so it was great to jump straight into the process without the awkwardness that comes with the first few days of a project. It’s been great and inspiring to work with people who work at such a high standard within puppetry. Toby and Finn too have gone from strength to strength with their past projects and the two of them bounce off each other so effortlessly in the room. It’s been one of the most fun rehearsal processes I’ve been a part of, with a lot of laughter and silliness but also a great amount of serious focused work that has brought out some beautiful moments in the show.

ST207729 captioned.jpgWhat do you see as being the main purpose or message of the production? What do you hope that the audience may take away with them?

It’s going to be interesting to see how an audience reacts to this piece. Every night there’ll be a different make up of people that have come because it’s Vivaldi, or because they’re huge Richter fans and are intrigued to hear this piece. Or those that have come because of the puppetry or simply those that are fans of The Globe and the atmosphere within the Wanamaker. It’s part concert part theatre piece and the etiquette for how to respond to this medley is, I think, not fully known.

Emma Rice, the Artistic Director at The Globe, described the puppets as being ‘crash test dummies for life’ which is lovely way of putting it. The design of the puppets is such that they are very neutral and so an audience can imprint on them whatever they wish. The piece deals with universal subjects like love, loss and dealing with life. I imagine people might initially see themselves in the puppets, but then as the story develops they are perhaps taken out of themselves and invited to imagine how it might be for someone else. Sympathy and empathy all rolled in to one.

 

Interview with Josh Elwell



‘Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons: A Reimagining’ at The Globe
 is on until the 21st April.  To find out more about Gyre & Gimble and their work, visit their website at: http://www.gyreandgimble.com, or Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo and Instagram feeds.   To book tickets to see the performance at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, visit the Globe’s website.

Moving Stories: An Interview with Claire Lamond

Claire Lamond is a Scottish BAFTA nominated stop motion animator and filmmaker based in a dark cupboard in Edinburgh.  She is drawn to stories of small happenings that reflect wider society and has worked with community projects animating their stories.  I caught up with Claire at the 2018 Manipulate Festival to find out more about her work and influences.    


mugshotlowresHow did you get involved in animation, and why stop motion?

Some years ago I was ill and had to give up my job as a youth worker. I was introduced to art initially as a therapeutic process but ended up going to college to take it further. I was doing illustration but found that everything I wanted to do took place over time so that, coupled with my love of film and stories, led me to study animation at Edinburgh College of Art.

Stop motion has a particular appeal to me. I love the thrill of creating something that is gone the minute you move onto the next frame, never to be repeated. Although I use computers for capturing my frames and After Effects, I mostly love the tactile interaction that exists between puppet and animator when we’re working together in the wee dark room of my studio. I think stop motion has a lot in common with working with puppets in real time…just much much slower!

AllThatGlisters_02
Still from ‘All That Glisters’, Claire Lamond, 2012

After my degree film ‘All That Glisters‘, adapted from a short story by the achingly great author, Ann Donovan, I was offered an animator in residence at National Mining Museum Scotland, where my remit was to make a film inspired by the collection. What a dream that was! I ended up interviewing the ex miners who work there about their first experience of going underground and their response to the closure of the pits under Thatcher’s orders. ‘Seams and Embers‘ resulted. I like that objects as well as puppets can be characters and here the ‘piece tin’ (or sandwich box) plays it’s part because the men talked about how opening their tin and having a piece of home down in the mine was so important to them.

mining-+-sc4 1_00232
Still from ‘Seams and Embers’, Claire Lamond, 2012

My next larger piece, ‘Sea Front‘, was another museum based collaboration between myself and Fife Cultural Trust to make a film about World War I. Having focused on men in the mining museum, I wanted to create a story from my research that focused on women and children’s experience. I’m a bit of a geek for research and there are 173 facts from the time couched somewhere in ‘See Front’! It was fantastic to work again with my pal, Karine Polwart, to create the score. She’s a bit of a geek herself and created something beautiful based on pipe tunes of the time.

These are my main films but I have also worked with organisations such as Edinburgh Development Group and Disability History Scotland to create work for them and have just finished a music video for Glasgow artist Richard Luke working in shadow puppets which was a really lovely, peaceful process.

 

SF_still03
Still from ‘Sea Front’, Claire Lamond, 2014


You use materials with a lot of texture, and this seems particularly apparent in your short film, ‘Seams & Embers’.  What does this aesthetic lend to your narratives? 

The making process is a joy for me. I keep old clothes and source specifics bits of fabric from charity shops. Stories in films capture characters at one moment in their lives but I want it to appear as though they have had a history. That they have a ‘lived in’ look. It means everything looks a bit tatty, but so do we all. Sometimes I choose textiles for a specific reason. I tend now to make my puppets’ skin from nylon tights. This started when I was making ‘Seams and Embers’ and found out that nylon was a by-product of coal.

My choice to use textiles is also a nod to women in particular’s rich history of craft. I was sent out of my sewing class at school because I kicked against doing something so ‘girly’…it’s amuses me to think how much I use fabrics and sewing now! The film I’m working on just now pushes this side to my work even further because absolutely everything is made out of fabric and threads.

SF_still04
Still from ‘Sea Front’, Claire Lamond, 2014


You have significant experience in community work and continue to work with young people, sometimes from challenging backgrounds, using animation.  Can you tell us about this?

There is nothing more magical than watching someone press ‘play’ when they have just done their first second or two of animation – that ‘I’m a wizard!’ moment that even the most cynical or withdrawn person or someone with significant additional needs experiences. Often the people who are struggling the most in other aspects of their life or in the setting they find themselves in are the ones who gain the most from creating things. Using art forms to connect with people is such a powerful way of working. I think humans are natural storytellers, so running workshops is as much drawing this side out of people as it is doing the animation.


So, what’s next..?

At the moment I am working on stage visuals with singer/performer Mairi Campbell on her next show (having created the visuals for her first show, ‘Pulse’ two years ago). It’s lovely to be collaborating with a wide creative team.

By contrast, I have also just finished the making-stage and am about to begin animating my own stop motion film adapted from a story that my oldest daughter wrote about what she has learned from her sister’s unusual way of looking at the world (as well as a beautifully unique slant on things, she has autism). It feels like a very internal, personal and quiet space to be working in.

In terms of the future…well…funding….need I say more….but I hope I will be able to make more stories that are small but tell something of wider society – that’s where my love lies.

Interview by Emma Windsor

 


To find out more about Claire’s work, visit her website: www.clairelamond.com , Facebook and Vimeo Channel.  Read about her work in progress on her WordPress blog: https://clairelamond.wordpress.com

Dolly Said No to Elvis: An Interview with Heather Colbert

‘Dolly Said No to Elvis’ by Mark Nevin is the true story of Dolly Parton refusing to part with her song ‘I will always love you’ when Colonel Tom Parker wanted to take 50% of the royalties if Elvis recorded it. Luckily she later said yes to someone rather special… We spoke to Heather Colbert, who directed and animated the official music video, about her work as a stop motion animator and model maker.

29527577_2508541899370264_113412732_o
Heather Colbert working in ESCAC in Teresa near Barcelona

Can you tell us about yourself and your work as a stop motion animator and model maker. What’s your background and how did you get into animatio
n?​
I came to animation through illustration. I studied at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge; my degree was in Illustration and animation but it wasn’t until the third year that I had the opportunity to try stop motion and find my passion there. I had always loved hand made animation such as Bagpuss and The Clangers, made by Small Films. Seeing films like “The Maker” by Zealous Creative as a student made me want to create animated worlds of my own.
 
 

 

You recently directed and animated the official music video for ‘Dolly Said No to Elvis’ by Mark Nevin. Can you tell us more about this?

This was my third animation commission, and I had recently been part of an intensive stop motion workshop in Budapest, run by Joseph Wallace and Péter Vácz, so I wanted to really push myself and create something more ambitious than my first music video, Bibimbap, for Ori Dagan.  “Dolly Said No to Elvis” was created in two months, and I set up a makeshift studio in my grandmother’s dining room.

29681033_2508533846037736_441191742_o
Part of the set from ‘Dolly Said No to Elvis’
What was the most challenging part of the process of making the animation?
The short time scale was a real challenge, as I had not made 3.5 minutes of stop motion animation in two months before, but I think these intense schedules have helped improve my ‘big picture’ thinking; managing the whole project solo, and making sure it is delivered on time. (When I worked on illustrations in my degree I would very easily get lost in fine detail, which was very enjoyable, but not great for developing time keeping skills!) Also the intense and solitary nature of these projects is not very good for the mental health! So I am enjoying the different discipline of being a part of bigger projects at the moment.
 
 
29513580_2508533832704404_54658735_o
Puppet development sketches

How do you get your ideas? Who or what is your inspiration?

So far, my professional animation experiences have all been music videos, so there is a great deal of inspiration already there as a platform to build up from. But when I have had the chance to think of my own ideas, it comes from many sources. My own work has been led by what I’m curious about at the time, but music often helps me develop the initial idea. For example in my graduation film, Courage to make a Fool, I knew I wanted to make a film about a clown, but it was when I found a track by the ‘Underscore Orkestra – Egyptian Ella’ that I started to build the story – by watching what happened in my head as I listened to their ‘Klezmer’ music.
29634093_2508533806037740_292341513_o
Puppet from ‘Dolly Said No to Elvis’
Any exciting projects in the pipeline?
At the moment I am in Teresa, near Barcelona, working in ESCAC – alongside Abel Carbajal. We met at the Budapest workshop and since then we have been collaborating on the puppet design for his graduation film. I have joined him and his team out here, and I am working on building the puppets. It has been an amazing experience and I can’t wait to see the little guy in action!
 

When I get back to the UK, I feel very lucky to be part of the placement scheme at Aardman where I will spend a few weeks in the animation department.  I’m also looking forward to meeting up with the lovely community of animators in Bristol to talk about possible future projects we could work on.

29405606_2508533889371065_1605384647_o
Drawing by Heather Colbert
 
 

Find out more about Heather Colbert at her website www.heather-colbert.com and keep up-to-date with her latest projects via Instagram and Twitter.