Formed in 2000, Pickled Image specialises in puppetry for live performance and theatre. Since its inception the company has gained international recognition and numerous awards for their darkly humorous visual productions. I sat down with company co-director Vicky Andrews to talk about what they’ve been up to, what’s in store for Christmas and the latest show in development, ‘Yana and the Yeti’.
What have Pickled Image been up to?
We have been rehearsing Christmas Tales with Granddad, a show we made last year for Cast Theatre in Doncaster. It has a different cast then, Kathleen Lore and Simon Kerrigan. Adam Fuller wrote the show, Dik (Downey) and I directed it. This year I’m in it, doing all the roles that Kathleen did and Vic Llewellyn is operating the Granddad puppet. We’ve got three shows at the Tropicana, Weston-Super-Mare on 03 – 04 December. Followed by a run at the Quaterhouse, Folkstone from the 16 to 24 December. Then we come back to Bristol for a run at the Christmas Speigeltent for 27 – 30 December.
So it’s a new team out on the road with the show.
Still from animation for ‘Christmas Tales with Granddad’.
Illustration: Vicky Andrews. Animation: Emma Windsor, White Rabbit Animation
Granddad’s got a huge following in the UK because he’s been around for so long and he’s amongst the most successful puppet character that we’ve got. The show’s for families with children aged 3 years +. It’s a really fun family show and a great opportunity for the whole family to go out and enjoy themselves.
And how’s ‘Coulrophobia’ going..?
Well, we’ve just finished some very successful runs in the UK. We had a great run at the Tobacco Factory Theatre, Bristol which completely sold out. Then in February we’re off to Manipulate Festival in Scotland with a show on Saturday 04 February. After that, we’re off to Greenwich Theatre in May; The Gulbenkian Theatre, Canterbury in April and we’ve got a week long tour in Norway with Nordland Visual Theatre, who co-produced it. It’s been a very successful show, and it demonstrates another of our strengths. Not only can we produce very popular family shows but also slightly risqué adult shows. Both have a strong audience bases.
So Coulrophobia is going to be going as long as we can have it on the road!
And what’s in the pipeline..?
We are starting to make our new show, ‘Yana and the Yeti’, which is co-produced by Nordland Visual Theatre and funded by the Arts Council. We go to Norway at the end of February for a month for rehearsals and it premieres there on 24 March. It’s a family show with no spoken language, so we can tour the show internationally. It’s about a little girl called Yana who has lost her Mum and ends up in a Siberian village on the outskirts of the mountains and forest. She’s a refugee, placed with a mother who has five children of her own and is too busy to pay attention to Yana. She’s an outsider, bullied by the village children. Yana still believes that her mother is going to come back for her and the children use this to lure her into the forest near the outskirts of the village. They leave her there, lost and alone. She’s terrified as she can hear a wailing sound and can see a large figure looming towards her out of the darkness. It’s a Yeti – and he’s also lost. Although it’s a little scary to begin with, they both realise that there’s nothing to be scared of and end up keeping each other warm.
The villagers, of course, realise that Yana is missing and the story follows their journey to find her and bring her back safely to the village. We’re working with Award winning playwright Hattie Naylor who is co-writing it with us. Emma Lloyd, from Scopitone & Compagnie, is directing the show (she also directed ‘Houdini’s Suitcase’ back in 2006. ) Adam Fuller, Nikki Warwick and myself are performing. Simon Preston is producing the music and Adam Laity is going to film some snowy scenes.
The show is for families with children 5 years +. It might seem scary, but I think children are more sophisticated than we give them credit for. It’s a careful balance, it won’t be ‘fluffy’ because that wouldn’t convey the themes, there has to be a slight edge to the work that children can handle and appreciate. The themes are so poignant now with what’s happening with refugee children from Syria and other places.
There are so many displaced children who have lost their families, so it’s reflecting real life and those undertones are in the work. Many children in the UK understand this. They might have refugee children at school, children from a different country who don’t speak their language and who look or behave a little differently. So it’s relatable to in that regard. Interestingly in Stamsund, Norway, where we are making the show, the hotel in this small community has been turned into a refugee centre. So the location is in the middle of nowhere, in a small town where there are many refugees. We hope to absorb some of these influences into the work.
We’ve also been involved in a completely different show, ‘Babe the Sheep-Pig’ with Polka Theatre. Dik has been making some puppets and masks for the performance, working with a great team of makers, including Max Humphries, who made all the mechanisms for the puppets. It’s been a really great experience for us. So all-in-all we’ve been rather busy!
Interview by Emma Windsor
‘Christmas Tales with Granddad‘ can be seen at the Tropicana, Weston-Super-Mare from 03 – 04 Dec; The Quaterhouse, Folkstone from 16 – 24 Dec and the Christmas Speigeltent, Bristol from 27 – 30 Dec. Coulrophobia will continue to tour next year 2017. For further information about Pickled Image and their shows, see the website at: http://pickledimage.co.uk