In the first in our two-part series on the artists involved in Puppet Place’s press team, we meet emerging artist Martha Lulu King. Hailing from a theatre family background, Martha focuses on stop motion silhouette animation. Her short films have been used interactively alongside live theatre. We caught up with her to find out where her passion for film and theatre comes from, and what she’d most love to do as an artist.
What’s your background and how did you get into puppetry?
I come from a theatre family. I grew up touring the UK with horse drawn wagons while my parents worked with Horse and Bamboo Theatre. My mum was a puppet maker back then, and my dad is a performer and musician. Horse and Bamboo specialised in puppetry and mask but they also play with light and scale. This is all without dialogue, so it was fully accessible and could be taken anywhere around the world. At such a young age, this experience must have really resonated with me as it lead to the fascination I have with shadow puppetry today.
I studied Drama at Bath Spa University and stayed on to study for a masters degree in Theatre for Young Audiences. During my time there, I also gained an interest in using mixed media within live performance. Whilst working on an immersive theatre project, I wanted to make the shadow puppets move on their own so that they could be interacted with simultaneously in live performance. During my research, I discovered Lotte Reiniger who was the pioneer of silhouette stop motion animation in the 1920’s. Inspired by her ‘just do it’ attitude, I built a studio in my bedroom wardrobe and taught myself how to make shadow puppet animations.
Can you tell us about some of the projects you’ve been working on?
I’ve mostly worked on small-scale theatre projects so far. Last year as part of my masters I began devising a one-woman show that was an adaptation of Antonia Barber’s The Mousehole Cat, with interwoven memories from the 1981 Penlee Lifeboat Disaster. Both of these events involve brave men from Mousehole who risk their lives to battle a vicious winter storm. In the children’s book, there is a happy ending. However, in the true event, the men were much less fortunate. I’m from Mousehole myself. It is a small fishing village in Cornwall. We celebrate the legend of Tom Bawcock, the protagonist in The Mousehole Cat every year by singing and parading paper lanterns round the harbour side.
This project was an exploration of fiction and non-fiction and how we tell stories to bring hope in difficult situations. Within this project I focussed on using paper and various light sources to tell the narrative, as this is the language that the villagers use to remember their stories with the homemade lanterns. My silhouette animations, which are also made with paper and light, were used interactively as part of the scenography throughout, along with actual footage.
Most recently I made an animation called CAT in collaboration with Bigger House Film, who produced it, and my dad, Jo King, who wrote the music. This project gave me the opportunity to step out of my bedroom wardrobe and into a bigger studio. I designed and made a multi-plane lightbox, which was brilliant as I could experiment using different layers and backgrounds made from tracing paper and black cardboard to create more depth within my work.
This animation is about a cat that seeks adventure and escape from the busy everyday normality. As stop frame animation takes such a long time to make, I’ve found the narrative usually has to be very simple in order to have more of an impact, especially in a short film. This is the part that I find most challenging as I get carried away with ideas and have to reign them back in! CAT is my first collaboration piece and has built up my experience and portfolio as an animator. I intend to submit it to film and puppetry festivals this year.
What are your aspirations?
I’m hoping that soon I will find a way to support myself and become a freelance animator. I want to collaborate with other emerging artists. I’ve already spoken with musicians who would be interested in using my work in a music video and spoken word artists who need a visual aesthetic for their words. So, fingers crossed, I can start making more work with other people alongside my own short story projects.
Interview with Emma Windsor