Here Be Dragons! An Interview with Angie Bual about The Hatchling

The Hatchling in progress

Created by a leading design team specialising in puppetry, kites and immersive theatre, The Hatchling will be a ground-breaking outdoor theatrical performance that will unfold over a weekend of events in Plymouth. The spectacular giant dragon puppet will hatch in Plymouth City Centre, and with a wingspan of over 20 metres, will attempt to fly over the sea on Plymouth coast at the end of her journey. We caught up with Artistic Director of Trigger, Angie Bual to find out more about this amazing project.

Can you tell us about the origins of the idea and who is involved? How did this amazing project get started?

The Hatchling was created to be an unforgettable, one-off live event, free for all to attend – which now feels particularly pertinent after a year of isolation. We wanted to bring a sense of awe and wonder to Plymouth, and to involve the local community in all elements from the puppet’s design to the final performance.

The project is a celebration of cultural diversity, openness and unity, asking us to celebrate our commonalities over our differences, and it is a real opportunity to confront issues around migration and freedom of movement through the global symbol of the dragon. Whilst found in stories in every ancient culture around the world, the dragon is revered and respected in eastern mythology but often considered menacing in western folklore. The power public art has to unify us has never been more important.

The Hatchling walking. Credit – Carl Robertshaw

We’re working with 25 partners, and people at the top of their game from the fields of design, puppetry, aviation, and paleontology. This includes Mervyn Millar, part of the original creative team of the acclaimed stage production War Horse, and Carl Robertshaw, a designer who has created sets for the London 2012 Olympic Ceremonies, collaborated with artists including Ellie Goulding and Kylie, and is a 5-time sport kite world champion. The project has only been possible through this multi-disciplinary collaboration.

We were lucky to have public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England and support from Plymouth City Council and Mayflower 400.

Can you tell us about the design and build process for The Hatchling? How will the puppet fly?

The Hatchling is the largest ever puppet to be solely human operated, so the building process has been no mean feat. Standing at over 6.5m tall, her wings unfolded will span across a huge 20m. We worked with a paleontologist on the design to produce an anatomical dragon based on the prehistoric Pterosaur – the earliest vertebrate known to have evolved powered flight.

The Hatchling preparing for flight. Credit – Carl Robertshaw

The puppet is constructed from super lightweight carbon fibre weighing less than a piece of hand luggage, allowing it to be operated by a team of 36 puppeteers working in rotation in groups of 15. As for how exactly the puppet flies, that will be a surprise at the event – come and see!

The Hatchling in production. Credit – Holly Bobbins
The Hatchling in production. Credit – Holly Bobbins

When and where will the event be held? What can audiences expect?

The event is taking place in Plymouth city centre from the 14th to 15th August 2021.

Audiences will be able to see our beautiful dragon hatch, explore her surroundings and interact with the city – from intimate experiences to city-wide performances – before taking a world-first flight across the sea in a miraculous metamorphosis on the evening of Sunday 15 August. The sunset spectacle will feature lighting design by Mat Daw and a choral score by Ruth Chan.

This is a really exciting time for Trigger as we have also been selected as one of 10 creative teams to deliver a multi-million-pound project for Festival UK* 2022. More details to come in the next year.

Interview with Emma Windsor

To find out more about The Hatchling, visit the website at and subscribe to the mailing list. Catch up with all the latest news on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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