As part of the BPF+ Professional Programme, professional masterclasses give practitioners and students the opportunity to learn new skills and improve technique with veteran professionals from the fields of puppetry, performance and animation. BFP+ Curator, Emma Williams, spoke with Toby Olie from Gyre & Gimble about the forthcoming masterclass for puppeteers, ‘Working As One‘ – a workshop exploring the underlying principles of three person puppet animation.
You both worked on and became associate directors on the original production of War Horse. How has this informed the work you do now?
Having a puppet as a central character, whose narrative is communicated without text, through its movement, in parallel with the story of the human characters was such an exciting process to be a part of. So I think we have since been keen to persist not only in finding stories that require puppets as lead characters, but also pushing the technique and emotional range that our puppets are capable of.
What is it that interests you about three person puppet animation?
Being in what we call a ‘heightened state of readiness’ is key to animating a puppet as part of a team. Each of the three needs to have a sense of the puppet’s ongoing internal narrative, whilst feeling free enough to make suggestions AND relaxed enough to dump any existing plans and respond to new stimulus in the moment. All of the puppeteers senses are working in overdrive to keep in tune with each other which allows them to think, feel and act as one. This collective focus of three performers constantly powers the puppet keeping its reactions incredibly live and unpredictable. It’s this sense of extraordinary vitality that makes multiple operated puppets so interesting to us.
If you were to make one statement to a puppeteer in training, what would it be?
Develop a strong peripheral vision/outside eye, as it’s a crucial part of a puppeteers vocabulary, enabling you a s a performer to keep a sense of what the audience is seeing an how they might interpret the puppet’s actions, ensuring that your work is clear, concise and eloquent.
What is in the pipeline for Gyre & Gimble?
A combination of our own productions and collaborations with other theatres/companies, we’re keen to push ourselves and develop our creative process, as well as our aspirations for puppetry as an art form. We’re lucky enough to be planning into 2017, but balancing the administration that comes with running a company with our ambitions is ensure our immediate pipe-dreams stay practical!
The ‘Working As One’ Masterclass is on 10:00 am Thu 3 September at The Brewery Theatre. To find out more about the full BPF+ masterclass programme and to secure your place, visit the Bristol Festival of Puppetry website.