Emily 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’.
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).
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.
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.
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!
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.