Puppet Place resident artist, Catherine V Rock is a puppeteer, maker and performer. Her company, Muddy Duck, specialises in bringing that little … okay BIG… something extra to her client’s events – and to eliminate the predictable, to obliterate the mundane and eradicate any notion of normal. We caught up with her to find out how she got involved in puppetry on a large scale, what inspires her amazing designs and what she’d love to get into next…
How do you describe the work that you do and how did you get involved in it?
The work that I do is quite varied. Hands down I am a performer, I trained in acting and theatre at Kent University and it was there that I discovered puppetry and began to make and perform with my own puppets and characters. Since then, I have gone on to work around the world as a puppeteer and actor – performing in Europe, UAE and Argentina. Last year, I decided to move to Bristol to start creating more of my own projects but I am always on the look of for exciting productions to be a part of. Currently I develop and make my own costumes and puppets, which I perform in a mostly street theatre basis. That kind of explains why you will see me at Puppet Place for a solid month and then I will disappear into the ether! So just call me Catherine V Rock – Puppeteer, Performer, Maker.
What’s the most enjoyable project you’ve worked on so far?
I love big, bold and surprising characters, working with them and creating them. I really enjoy making things myself and then performing with them. There is something very satisfying about being a part of the whole process, but you won’t hear me saying that a week before a deadline! A favourite singular project is hard to choose, but I loved being apart of the show ‘Count Duckula’. I watched the cartoon and a kid, so to be able to puppeteer Duckula himself was awesome – a childhood dream come true. I also love performing Aurora the Giant Polar Bear with Greenpeace in London a few years back. Don’t often get to work with a puppet the size of a bus, so that was a good day.
How do you get your ideas? Who or what is your inspiration?
Ideas tend to come from what I am interested at the time. I perform street theatre seasonally, so I am able to experiment with a lot of things throughout the year. Last year I loved watching all the leaves falling in Autumn, so I made costumes out of them. Recently I was fascinated by the return of mermaids to the forefront of pop culture, so I decided to make a zombie version for World Zombie Day (an event which me and my friends have been going to for years,) I always use this day to indulge in the gory side of life – we should have a Halloween every month! When we first started going, we just used old left over make up, but now we plan costumes and techniques months in advance. Next year full we hope to involve head and shoulder latex mask making in our designs.
As for inspirations, I recently had a workshop with a puppeteer called Andrew Spooner and now I really want to explore puppetry in television and film. Seeing the films at Bristol Puppetry Festival also help with that one. I kind of just get a picture in my brain and I go with the flow. When it comes to commissions, I look at the brief and just think if I was going to the event/production what would I want to see? What would make me unable to blink and want to see it again and again and again? Theatre companies and shows like Cirque Du Soleil, Fuerza Bruta and War Horse, inspire me to make something … that has that special ‘something’.
Any exciting projects in the pipeline?
Nothing official I can report – but I am hoping to to working on a touring production or be on a film set as soon as possible!
Interview by Emma Windsor