All posts by whiterabbitanimation

Puppetry In… ‘What is Australian Puppetry?’ Part One

In this, the first in a two part feature about puppetry down under, notable puppeteers discuss what defines Australian puppetry and sets the scene apart from puppetry in other cultures.  This article is edited by Kay Yasugi, Pupperoos (New South Wales) and General Secretary of UNIMA Australia.

17952805_10158526630080114_7509519809466400408_nWhat is ‘Australian’ Puppetry? We are the world’s oldest and youngest nation, when considering our Aboriginal heritage dating back over 60,000 years, as well as British colonisation only 200 years ago. We don’t have a long Puppetry tradition like ‘Punch and Judy’ in the UK, and have had to define what is ‘Australian’ Puppetry along the way. When approached by the Puppet Place to write this article, I knew that I could not answer this question on my own. Australia is a cultural melting pot, and so is our puppetry. It seems only fitting that this article be a collection of thoughts from various puppeteers around the country – a rich and complex ‘puppet soup’, if you will.  So, below are thoughts from notable puppeteers and other practitioners working in the puppetry sectors in Australia today:


Richard Hart from Dream Puppets (Victoria) and President of UNIMA Australia:

Over the last century, Australia has become a multicultural nation based on immigration and for much of that period, mostly in denial of the previous indigenous nations it replaced.  This is slowly changing.  I am mentioning this as a background, as the brief European/Asian history of Australia combined with the remerging indigenous cultures, creates a distinctive artistic mix.  Also, artists do not create in a vacuum.

Australian puppetry culture has been geographically distant from others, both nationally and internationally. Also, there does not seem to be any established artistic “rules” except by those who already have them.  All puppetry traditions I know of in Australia have been brought in from other cultures.  Australian’s exposure to the puppetry arts has been increasing, via a few training opportunities with arts institutions, however, many depend on the occasional workshop if it is in their area, or the internet and other social connections.

Despite these apparent limitations, there are many individuals, groups and to a lesser degree, companies, who perform a variety of styles of puppet theatre to Australian audiences on a daily basis in schools and kindergartens. Adult puppetry is also performed in festivals, which occur regularly.

Les Méduses by Black Hole Theatre
Les Méduses by Black Hole Theatre, Victoria (Puppet Design & Construction by Joe Blanck at A Blanck Canvas)

My view is that Australian puppetry is quite healthy and growing, with different groups having their own references and becoming very successful nationally and internationally.  Whether we have a distinctive style may not be obvious to us, but possibly recognised by other countries.  Maybe the content or presentation, the way we speak, that anyone is an Australian regardless of their appearance, etc.

Puppetry in Australia is not the exclusive preserve of traditions and who can do it. Many artists from other disciplines, architects, solicitors, accountants, miners, chefs, ….., have and are exploring it, some even making it their career.  I think Australian puppetry is diverse, as it should be, and evolving as a combination of many elements. We are baking new and different cakes, so to speak.


Richard Bradshaw, NSW:

The city with the most puppet activity is Melbourne, but the companies there tend to be small, except for Creature Technology Company (who created ‘King Kong the Musical’) and A Blanck Canvas, both of which make large-scale puppets, some with remote-controlled features (there is a growing business of this style of puppetry.)

Creature technology king kong
King Kong puppet created by Creature Technology Company (Photo: James Morgan)

There is also the ImaginArta Australian Puppet Centre run by Sue Wallace from Sydney Puppet Theatre. They have shows every Sunday and run workshops occasionally. They also have a small collection of puppetry books.

At present puppetry does not have a strong following in the general public. However, there is a growing interest in puppetry in schools, and is part of the curriculum in some states.  There is no dedicated course for professional puppeteers although there has been one at the Victorian College for the Arts in Melbourne in the past.  Puppet companies (especially Spare Parts Puppet Theatre in Western Australia) offer short-term courses from time to time.  Some puppet-making is also included in the production course at NIDA (the National Institute for Dramatic Arts) in Sydney.

50 years ago it was rare to see an actor on stage with puppets in an Australian puppet show, but these days live actors are often seen, and the actual puppetry can be minimal.  I am unaware of any great regional difference, except perhaps that Terrapin Puppet Theatre may use more object theatre.

Murray Raine Puppets ''Simone & Monique'' RESIZED and CROPPED
Murray Raine (Murray Raine Puppets), Victoria

Puppeteers are principally playing to children, especially to school audiences where some box office is assured.  There is a limited market for adult puppetry, notably in small venues in Melbourne.  We know of one puppeteer, Murray Raine (Murray Raine Puppets), who plays principally to adult audiences but he meets them on cruise ships.  It would be very difficult to make a living playing puppetry for adults (by that name) and the most successful Australian puppeteer catering for adult audiences is based in The Netherlands [Neville Tranter]. Sometimes a single puppet character has had success with adult audiences on TV and can then play to live fans.  A current example is Heath McIvor’s purple puppet ‘Randy’.

Randy puppet
‘Randy’, a puppet performed by Heath McIvor (Melbourne, Victoria)

Angie Macmillan, VIC:

Australia as nation is still developing its own culture which is being influenced on all levels by a multitude of traditions from all corners of the globe. Because we are not yet bound by centuries-old traditions that can limit things being done a certain way, we have the freedom to explore the arts in our own way. We can look at puppetry culture and traditions from all over the world and take from them the things that interest us and appeal to us and reshape it to give us a new perspective, experimenting with new ideas to make our own meaning that fit into the context of life here in Australia and our cultural evolution.

Dennis Murphy (
Murphy’s Puppets), NSW:

Australia is a multicultural country.   Since 1945, over 7.5 million people have emigrated to Australia. Our overseas-born resident population is estimated to be 30 per cent of the population.  This is reflected in our Puppetry. I have known puppeteers here from Romania, Greece, Slovakia, The Czech Republic, Italy, the UK, the USA and Egypt.

Dennis Murphy (Murphy’s Puppets) at the Tarrengower Puppet Festival, Victoria, 2012 (photo by Kay Yasugi)

I am another example of multiculturalism. I was born in the USA, studied Puppetry in Europe and Indonesia. I perform Italian Commedia dell’Arte comedies adapted to Australian audiences.

P.S. We also eat well down here thanks to multiculturalism.


Edited by Kay Yasugi


In the next installment in this two-part feature, Kay Yasugi talks to Brett Hansen (Larrikin Puppets), Lynne Kent (ThingMaking), Tim Denton (AboutFace Productions), and Annie Forbes (AboutFace Productions) about what makes Australian puppetry unique and exciting for them.


Where to find out more about Australian Puppetry

UNIMA Australia –

UNIMA Australia is the official puppetry organisation of Australia. We welcome members from all over the world, and have regular newsletters with updates on puppetry happening around the country and abroad. For more information about membership, please go to

ThingMaking –

In their 2004 publication, The Space Between: The Art of Puppetry and Visual Theatre in Australia, Peter J. Wilson and Geoffrey Milne asked: “Where, then, do we think puppetry and visual theatre might go in the next twenty years?” (Wilson and Milne, 2004, 117). While it is not quite yet twenty years since this question was posed, the interviews conducted for ThingMaking ( turn to the practice of Australian puppeteers to provide some answers. In a context of a lack of puppetry training institutes in Australia, and drastic government arts funding cuts, the interviews are presented as audio podcasts and are publicly available as an avenue to communicate this research to other professional puppet makers and performers.

Facebook Groups:

UNIMA Australia (public page)

Puppet Builders of Australia

Hand in Glove: Puppetry in Sydney/NSW

Puppetry Melbourne



Projection: First Light – An Interview with Michael Chu

michael_chu_cropped‘Projection: First Light’ is a new game in development by Shadowplay Studios (and published by Blowfish Studios) which follows the adventures of Greta, a girl living in a mythological shadow puppet world. We spoke to the game’s designer, Michael Chu, about the forthcoming puzzle platformer that will explore the history and global culture around shadow puppetry.


‘Projection: First Light’ is a shadow puppet adventure about light manipulation, curiosity and lost art.  Can you tell us about the background to the game – how did you come up with the idea and why did you decide to use shadow puppetry?

A game jam I attended had the theme “So close.” I was reminded of times I would put my hand close to a ceiling light in my home and have fun making shadows. I made the first round of Projection here, and the shadow puppets lent themselves naturally to a game mechanic about manipulating shadows. It wasn’t until Global Game Jam that I made a prototype of the mechanic which we see in the game now. The prototype got people excited and so Yosha and Jared joined me.


The visual aesthetic for the game draws on a wide variety of art styles from Indonesian to Turkish and Chinese shadow puppetry.  How did you research this? 

The first iteration of Projection drew heavily from Lotte Reiniger’s art style. Moving forward though, we visited shadow puppeteer Richard Bradshaw, who gave us a run down of how we should explore the different worlds in the order: Javanese, Chinese, Turkish/Greek, and 19th Century European. He gave us a tour of his workshop and we recorded a lot of footage with how the shadow puppets moved. He also spent about 5 minutes to make a simple puppet for our artist to reference. Since then we’ve just been watching a lot of shows online and looking up the traditional art styles. We also read up closely on the stories to try capture the themes and morals, and not simply have the characters plopped into the game. After all we didn’t want to misrepresent the characters.

We have a couple of challenges that we’ve set up for ourselves. The puppets we reference adhere to proper shadow puppet physics, so for instance, the Javanese puppets do not have moveable leg joints. So we make them hobble side to side to replicate this movement. We also have no dialogue in the game and try tell as much through animation as possible. One last problem we’ve come across is the black and sepia colours of a traditional shadow puppet canvas. Unfortunately this seems to be a popular look for many Indie games, so we’ve tried adding more background colours since technically you can have coloured sheets as backing.


What do you think the particular appeal of shadow puppetry is for gamers? And what do you think will appeal to them most about the game?

We’d like people from any background to be able to hop on and play the game, and we’d like to think there are 3 core pillars to differentiate our game:

1. Unique shadow mechanics – Shadows are a natural phenomena that everyone understands, but it adds so much complexity once you give it physics.

2. Art Style – Shadow puppetry is a world heritage art. There is appeal in exploring something familiar which hasn’t been seen in great detail. It’s given us a chance to explore our own cultures!

3. Narrative – We’re exploring the stories of epics from different cultures. We like to think we’re helping pass on these stories through an interesting medium.

The shadow puppets came after the shadow mechanics, so we weren’t really influenced by other games, but by design of what made sense.  I have seen games which use puppets, but I haven’t seen shadow puppets. There are also games which use shadows as an interesting mechanic, but I don’t think there’s a game which uses shadow physics like ours. That said, the amount of video games out there now is staggering, so I wouldn’t be surprised if someone linked me a shadow puppet game.


We’re aiming for Q2 this year, but please be gentle if we miss our mark.

Find out more about Shadowplay Studios at their website and development blog  Keep up-to-date with the latest on ‘Projection: First Light’ via Facebook and Twitter.

Lizzie Makes! An Interview with Elizabeth Johnson

lizzie_johnson_portriatElizabeth Johnson is a freelance fabricator for animation, theatre and public engagement works, and resident artist at Puppet Place.  She graduated from the Bristol School of Animation in 2013 and has since worked with some incredible companies based in theatre, puppetry and robotics.  She is driven to learn new technologies to compliment interactive design and performance. 


Can you tell us about yourself and your work as a stop motion animator and model maker. What’s your background and how did you get into animation?

When I was at college really wanted to get into film production, but after not being able to make up my mind of what course to go for, I decided to do an art foundation instead, which happened to coincide with the year that Laika’s ‘Coraline was released. I went and saw that film at least 4 times at the cinema – the magic of it just didn’t get old for me, which got me thinking about doing animation. It was the perfect combination of all my interests, story telling, film making and fabrication. Hoorah!
Lizzie Johnson Music Video
Still from music video ‘Higher Love’ by Hanami Family
I studied animation at UWE, and through that discovered Puppet Place and swiftly fell in love with the community and work that was being created here. Since graduating, my work has broadened from just working in animation, although the skills I learnt from studying seem to be forever useful – and since graduating made a stop motion music video for a friend of mine

Thanks to the companies I’ve worked with over the last few years, Rusty Squid and Pickled Image in particular, my imagination and artistic direction has begun to lean more towards design and fabrication for interactive and immersive art works.
neutral puppet large 1
Neutral puppet for Rusty Squid Summer School
Pickled Image Yana
Set from ‘Yana and the Yeti’ by Pickled Image
You were recently involved in a collaborative project with Puppet Place resident artist company, ‘Rusty Squid’.  Can you tell us a bit about that?

The last project I worked on with Rusty Squid was their channel 4 documentary, ‘How to Build a Robot’. It was an amazing experience to be a part of. I got involved through working with them previously as I’d been working as their studio assistant for a couple of months and before that had made some neutral puppets with Rosie and Dave for their summer school.
neutral puppet - small
Neutral puppet for Rusty Squid Summer School
The team working on the project was amazing, it felt like Rusty Squid had brought the most extraordinary group of talented people, I knew how lucky I was to work alongside them and see their process develop throughout the project.

My role on the project was assistant fabricator to Designer/Fabricator/Engineer, Emma Powell – this was a brilliant opportunity as I’d worked with Emma before so knew a bit about her process and she’s a brilliant teacher so I never felt out of my depth – she supported me in developing my skills as a fabricator and was always open to discussing her thoughts and ideas with me, making me feel really included and valued in the fabrication process.
Lizzie with friend: ‘How to Build a Robot’ with Rusty Squid.

The most challenging thing about this project was the time we had to complete it in, as David says in the documentary – the team could have used at least twice the amount of time we had. Also, I had another project lined up from the start of December and so didn’t get to see ‘How to Build a Robot’ through to completion which was a real shame.  It felt very wrong to be leaving a project before it had finished. The camera crew was tricky to navigate too, although I did very well at staying out of shot for the most part! We had to accommodate their requirements for filming which meant altering the studio lighting to just using spot lights – not awful, and after doing stop motion animation low lighting seems kind of familiar, but still, for fabricating it isn’t ideal!

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a project with my fellow animation graduate, Katie Hood. We’ve been commissioned by the National Trust to make a bespoke installation for their property Wray Castle, up in the Lake District. Its going really well so far and has been so enjoyable to work on an installation like this.

As well as this I’m working as an assistant artist for Go Sketch which is an after school arts club based in primary schools across Bristol – its great fun and hopefully it will help to encourage some future artists!

Also, I’ve started a craft club up at Better Food (where I have a part time job). It’s a couple of hours long on Thursday evenings in the Cafe, a group of us get together and I come up with fun little projects that give people the chance to try out new processes and just take a bit of time out for themselves and to enjoy being creative. Its really helped me take time out to do a little crafting just for me too!

What projects do you have in the pipeline?

In the pipeline…. I’m working with Hannah and Rachel at Puppet Place HQ to set up a puppet making club for kids, we’re going to do an initial 4 week run in March which is great!  Also Katie and I have been really inspired by the project by the National Trust and so are applying for other funding opportunities and commissions to hopefully get to design and make other interactive installations.

I’m most excited by opportunities that allow me to make accessible work that has a social impact, I want people to find fun in art and be surprised and inspired by it.

To find out more about Elizabeth’s work, see her Facebook page ‘Elizabeth Johnson Makes‘ or read her blog.

Saturday Puppet Club with Elizabeth Johnson
A friendly Saturday morning puppetry club for families. Puppet maker, Lizzie Johnson, will take you through the process of creating your very own puppet, building craft and artistic skills each week. Find out more on the Puppet Place website.

Review: Manipulate Festival 2018

Sabine Molenaar: Almost Alive

Now in its second decade of supporting the work and creative development of artists from Scotland and around the world, Manipulate Festival is Scotland’s foremost celebration of innovative visual theatre and animated film.  This year continued in that tradition, with an eclectic mix of animated film, object theatre, dance and visual art.

The first day was an animation feast, with a full afternoon and evening of programmes covering a range of production in stop motion, puppetry and 2D.  Programmes reflected conventional narrative and abstract works, including a showcase from ‘Punto Y Raya’ (Spain’s ‘Dot and Line’ Festival) and our own ‘Women in Puppetry & Puppet Animation’ from Bristol Festival of Puppetry 2017.  In addition to the straight ahead screenings, we were also treated to guest-curated programmes, notably retrospectives from comic book artists turned animators, Alberto Vasquez and Khris Cembe, and the Estonian animation artist, Ülo Pikkov, which provided a deeper insight into each collection.

Ruka (The Hand) directed by Jiri Trnka.  Screened as part of ‘Fighting Modernists’ retrospective showcase curated by Ülo Pikkov

Animated work that caught my eye included Chloe Leseur’s ‘TIS‘, a production with a clever use of paper cut out animation in a 3D space that explores themes of disability, becoming and healing.  Also Marco Jemolo’s noir animated short-film Framed made us think by using the stop motion process as a metaphor to explore the role of the individual in society in a frank yet light-hearted way.

Production still from ‘Framed’ directed by: Marco Jemolo

The live performances didn’t disappoint either.  Although the festival celebrates art forms beyond even our broad definition of puppetry, it felt clear what the connections are and thus served to inspire, as well as entertain us.  The overall live events programme offered an interesting mix of visual theatre including: object manipulation, dance and installation works with many overlaps in individual performances.

Ariel Doron’s ‘Plastic Heroes’.  Photo by Anael Resnick.

The curation style was to schedule performances with similar forms and themes in succession, inviting the audience to consider the work overall, as well as appreciate each individual performance stand-alone.  The quirky yet mischievous humour of the object theatre performances shone for me, in particular Ariel Doron’s ‘Plastic Heroes’, a cheeky yet innovative performance that used toy soldiers with hilarious effect.

By contrast, the physical theatre performances were powerful, often exploring darker themes and movement that challenged expectations.  ‘Achilles’ from Company of Wolves, offered a violent, gritty insight into the classical legend.  Likewise Sabine Molenaar’s ‘Almost Alive’ challenged its audience with visceral motion pieces that explored primal themes.  Although I found both these works a little laboured at times, it certainly shook up any preconceptions of both narrative and performance I might have had.

A fascinating performance incorporating object and physical theatre was delivered by Ramesh Meyyanpann, whose darkly comical ‘Off Kilter’ followed one man’s gradual discombobulation with an ingenious use of sleight of hand illusion and amusing (yet anxiety provoking) non-verbal storytelling.

Ramesh Meyyanpann: Off Kilter

Manipulate Festival also provides a platform for emerging artists and work-in-progress with Snapshots and Testroom.  These short performances allow feedback to be solicited at various stages in development, and provides good opportunity for audiences to see and shape future productions.  Among the fledgling works were some stand out performances, notably ‘Hand//Shake’ by Katie Armstrong, a short dance performance executed with great expertise and humour, and ‘Rendition’ by Freda O’Byrne from the Curious School of Puppetry, which is shaping up to be a moving production that will shine a light on the de-humanising practices detainees have been subjected to on CIA detention.

We ended our festival experience on a truly magical note, with whimsical, warming works from France’s Velo Theatre and Flop & ATH Associés.  ‘Dal Vivo’ from acclaimed performance artist Flop, brought beautiful animation to still life with the ingenious use of projection through all manner of quirky apparatus, fashioned from everyday objects.  Yet  the pièce de résistance for me was Velo Theatre’s ‘The Frog at the Bottom of the Well Believes that the Sky is Round’ – an enchanting performance experience that offers a slice of childhood that is simply unforgettable.

Flop & ATH Associés: Dal Vivo


Review by Emma Windsor


Founded in 1984, Puppet Animation Scotland champions puppetry, animation and visual theatre both in Scotland and internationally. Puppet Animation Scotland is a Creative Scotland Regularly Funded Organisation. They produce two festivals; manipulate Visual Theatre Festival and Puppet Animation Festival, each year. Find out more at the website:

Weirdy Rhymes: An Interview with Dave Brain

dave_brainDave Brain is a visual effects artist, one half of ‘Guksack‘ and son of the late stop motion animator, Terry Brain.  As part of our Bristol Festival of Puppetry’s tribute to his father’s career and creations, we premiered two episodes from the brand new series Weirdy Ryhmes created by Terry Brain and produced posthumously by Dave and animator Michael Percival.  Weirdy Ryhmes has since launched on Aardman’s new YouTube channel, AardBoiled this October.  We caught up with Dave to find out more about the series and how it was created and produced. 


Weirdy Rhymes was a programme idea of your late father, Terry Brain, who was an accomplished stop motion animator, writer and director.  How did the idea come about?

Originally Weirdy Rhymes was to be a book. Back in the early 90s, fresh off of writing the Stoppit and Tidyup Annual (with Steve Box) he was asked if he had any more ideas. He’d been creating his own version of classic rhymes for years so must have followed from that. It was originally called  Hungry Dumpty and was to be a parody nursery rhyme book.

Terry Brain animating on the set of ‘Curse of the Were-Rabbit’.  Photo: Aardman Animations

As time went on it was developed further.  By the late 1990s they’d created a pilot for a prospective children’s TV show called The House that Fnord Built. It was a gorgeous 2D animation and – if memory serves me rightly – the music was done by the same guy who did the Postman Pat theme.

Eventually it became Weirdy Rhymes and the same episode has been reshot in stop motion with new music. Keep an eye out for The Slimey Sniffin’ Snork, that’s the one that’s been made twice! I will dig out the original one day.  We arrive at a version for the modern generation, short and surreal YouTube videos!  But his surreal humour remains. I like the way one episode is a beautiful piece of work and the next is about a creature whose arse keeps falling off.  Sums up my Dad’s mind.


Still from Weirdy Rhymes


You decided to carry on with the production of Weirdy Rhymes and teamed up with the animator Michael Percival to continue this work.  Can you tell us about this?

It was Michael Percival (who we call Percy) who convinced my Dad he could make Weirdy Rhymes. Technology had gotten to a point where you could make this kind of stuff at home. And while TV did pop up as a format, there is a creative freedom and potential international audience that spurred things on after nearly three decades.

Even though I’ve worked in a similar field (as a Visual Effects artist), we had never worked together. With Weirdy we finally had a chance to work together. When Dad became ill and we became brave enough to talk about the future, he gave us a brief list of people he’d like to continue the work if there was an option to. Once Dad passed (quite quickly and unexpectedly in the end, so there was no plan in place) it seemed like a no brainer to get them done.


Still from Weirdy Rhymes


We turned on his home studio to find that he’d filmed ten episodes. It was up to us to make sense of his various bits of animation and much like a jigsaw with no reference picture, we have spent the year trying to put them together. I think we presumed it would take a couple of months but here we are nearly two years later. I’m actually writing this in the middle of a deadline to get the next one done!  Even though they are in mid release we are still very much working on them day and night. Percy has been great in getting these pieces together and Andy, who does the music, has been great at making wonderful soundtracks to bits of animation that were animated to my Dad tapping on a table as a beat. I have been trying to get the last bits of post-production together, the easy bit really.

Aardman have been great. Dad’s work home for much of the last two decades, they have been trying to get a YouTube channel off the ground for some years now.  It was something Dad talked with them about so we knew he’d be happy to be a part of it. And once we talked with them, it was again a no brainer.


Still from Weirdy Rhymes


The first episodes of Weirdy Rhymes have just been screened on Aardman’s new YouTube channel, AardBolied.  How does it feel to see the finished work and when will further episodes be released?   

There are now four episodes online. It’s been absolutely amazing to get them out finally and I am over the moon that Dad got a last opportunity to make something of his own (after a long time of working on other peoples projects, which was great, but we knew he had more ideas in him.)  I’m just gutted that he hasn’t been able to see any of it.

We are nearly half way through the run, which are being staggered out every couple of weeks. Dad had a 30 episode plan and if there’s call for it, we have enough notes to go on to complete the rest. But we will see. For now we will focus on the ones that Dad animated himself.


Interview by Emma Windsor


To watch more episodes of Weirdy Rhymes visit the AardBoiled YouTube channel:  Find out more about Dave Brain’s work on his YouTube Channel  or join him on Twitter.

Doris Rocks! An Interview with Lucy Heard

lucy_heard_Drastic Productions - Compendium - R&D - Joan _previewResident artist Lucy Heard is a performer, events organiser and producer.  She works as ‘Doris Rocks’, where she focuses on all manner of creative and inventive happenings.  We caught up with her to find out how she got involved in this work, who exactly ‘Doris’ is and what plans she has for the foreseeable. 


You have an incredibly diverse background, from street performance to mental health advocacy.  How did you get involved in these activities?  How do they relate?

I’ve always been creative and making art, even when I spent years working as a recruitment consultant I would go on courses in printmaking, singing and burlesque. In 2009 I met Liz Clarke and worked on the Gallery Of Superheros and Alteregos, which was exhibited at the Tobacco Factory.

lucy_heard_Drastic Productions - Lady Lily Nova_preview

It really opened my eyes to what I could do and create.  I had no idea that this collaboration would develop into deep friendships, further explosions of work and the guts to have a total career change.

Since the Gallery, we have worked together on the Compendium of Superheros and Alter Egos and Liz’s show Cannonballista.  The compendium is a graphic novel developed using live art and written by a group of women with mental health issues. Together we recruited and employed an artist to make our vision into a book.

lucy_heard_Compendium of Superheros and Alter Egos_preview

Cannonballista is a live cannonball show which Liz has been developing over many years.  I worked with Liz on the show while developing who took part in the show. Working with personal objects to draw out characters has always been at the core of the work I have done with her.

While my heart loves the performance aspects, my head knows that I am far better off stage, taking a more project management/producer role.  I moved into Puppet Place nearly 2 years ago with a view to making more and developing all the characters I have worked on with Liz (and others) into puppets. Finding time to work on something for me is really a challenge as there is so much else going on.


Who is Doris? What kinds of events do you organise and for who? 

I am Doris, the name comes from a nickname that I was given several years ago by a housemate who called everyone’s girlfriends ‘Doris’ because he couldn’t keep up with the ever-changing names.  One year I got more birthday cards for Doris than I did for me! It came from Peter Cook and Dudley Moore sketch.

lucy_heard_Liz Clarke and Company - Cannonballista - Silence and Presence_preview

I used to work on lots of vintage and burlesque hen parties and theatre events, providing event assistance/management or workshops.  This work has developed a lot over the past few years and now I mainly work for Bath Spa Live on music, poetry and dance events, alongside producing fire performances and street theatre for Juggling Inferno and Circii.


Is there an event that you’re particularly excited about this Christmas and New Year?  How will you spend Christmas Day?

I’ve been working on Christmas events since July – I’ll be quite glad when its all over!  I love everyone’s enthusiasm for things, until I tell them how much it will cost to put an aerial act in or the ghost of Christmas past on stilts.

I head off on retreat in January when I don’t have to look at a computer, answer the phone or talk for a week and on Christmas Day, I will see my family in the morning and have a snooze in the afternoon.


lucy_heard_Liz Clarke and Company - Cannonballista - Company Cannonball_preview


Do you have any new year resolutions? Any plans in the pipeline for 2018?

More self-development, my most recent superhero character was about connecting with people using eye contact and being seen.  I’m currently working with Holly Stoppit to look at my inner critic and this is giving me plenty to work with.


And there is always my secret puppet army to build..!


Interview by Emma Windsor


To find out more about Lucy’s work and events she organises, see her website:, connect to her on LinkedIn or see some of the events she’s been involved in on Pinterest.  

Associate Artist Spotlight: An Interview with Katie Underhay

The Tale of the Cockatrice 13 - Credit- Kirsten McTernanWe wrap up our series of articles following Puppet Place Associate Artists as they get their work in production and out on tour with a review of an incredible year by Katie Underhay from Mumblecrust Theatre, as she reflects on how far her now award-winning show, The Tale of the Cockatrice has come in just twelve short months – from scratch performance to UK tour.


You’ve had quite a busy year in 2017.  What have been the highlights for you?  Have you met your goals or even exceeded your expectations?

We certainly have! This time last year we did our scratch performance of The Tale of the Cockatrice at the Lyric, Bridport, to try out new ideas and get feedback from kids and parents about what is working, what else they’d like to see, etc, which we took on board ready for the new year.  In 2017, we wanted to take the show to Brighton and Edinburgh Fringe.  We knew that it would be an incredible amount of hard work and cost an awful lot of money.

So we set some very specific aims: get some reviews and press/industry feedback; invite programmers from venues and touring agencies to get our tour up and running; to have these two big festivals in our show and company’s history and to promote our show and company’s name with audiences. It’s safe to say, we certainly achieved those things. Our absolute highlight this year, which came as a total surprise, was winning our two awards at Brighton Fringe: “Voice’s Best Newcomer” and “IYAF’s Best of Brighton Fringe: Children and Families Award”. That certainly ticked our ‘press/industry feedback’ box, as did the 5-star review from The Voice! After our success in Brighton, it was much easier to approach programmers to see the show in Edinburgh and we had quite a few come along and book us for 2018!


What are your plans for the Christmas/New Year season?  What’s special about this season?  How will you spend Christmas Day?

Christmas is always a busy time for us but this year is even crazier! Up until Christmas Eve, I’ll be performing in Stuff and Nonsense’ 3 Little Pigs at the Lighthouse in Poole. We were approached by Theatre Shop, a venue very close to home in Clevedon, North Somerset, to perform The Tale of the Cockatrice a few days before Christmas. I was quite frankly gutted because I knew I’d be away at that time. Thankfully we managed to rearrange to the 28th & 29th December, so that week is going to be insane!


The Tale of the Cockatrice 09 - Credit- Kirsten McTernan
Photo: Kirsten McTernan

Finishing off the 3 Little Pigs run, travelling back to my family in Banwell for Christmas and Boxing Day, then two days later performing our show the first time since Edinburgh in August! We’re so excited to be performing the show in Clevedon. It’s the first time we’ve brought it to North Somerset, my home county – and Clevedon is the town my mum grew up in!  So it’s very close to my heart.  It’s also the first chance a lot of my friends will have to see the show. One of my oldest friends from the drama group I went to as a kid, a friend from my Performing Arts BTEC, my cousins and their children, even my GCSE drama teacher!  I’m really looking forward to it.

The Tale of the Cockatrice 08 - Credit- Kirsten McTernan
Photo: Kirsten McTernan

What plans do you have for the New Year?  What would you like to achieve?  Do you have any resolutions?

In 2018 we’d really like to take this show all over the country and keep promoting for 2019. We already have tour dates in London, Cheltenham and Hertfordshire; we’re going back to Brighton Fringe and we’re returning to the Lyric in Bridport with the finished show and a puppetry workshop. I don’t think we’ve come up with any resolutions yet, but a lot of plans; some things we need to implement and some crazy ideas that might come to pass.  We’ve been talking a lot about plans for a new show but I don’t know if 2018 is the year for that.  2017 has been full of surprises so I couldn’t even speculate what’s going to happen next year!

The Tale of the Cockatrice 03 - Credit- Eleanor Kelly
Photo: Eleanor Kelly

What advice would you have for artists who might be anxious about trying to get a puppetry show produced and on the road?

We really didn’t expect the kind of reception we got at Brighton Fringe. And from then all the things we were struggling to get (dialogues with programmers, press coverage) became so much easier.  It really has been a kind of snowball effect. Getting that first bit of recognition was so important for a new company that doesn’t have many contacts within the industry – yet!

When we started, we had a vague idea to do a family show about this old cockatrice myth and decided that we’d apply for every festival we found until we got accepted.  Then we’d create it.  This was what we really needed to get ourselves moving but was a stupid idea at the same time! We got accepted by the first one we applied to, we didn’t have nearly enough time and we were getting more and more elaborate with our ideas as time started to run out.  So I think the advice I’d give to people would be to find that “deadline” so that you have a goal but to give yourselves plenty of time. Within a week of being accepted, we were being asked for a logo and marketing copy (for a show that didn’t yet exist) and then were being asked for risk assessments, posters, flyers, press releases and a thousand forms to fill out.

The Tale of the Cockatrice 11 - Credit- Kirsten McTernan
Photo: Kirsten McTernan

Never underestimate the amount of admin there will be and make sure you make time for it. And don’t let yourselves be rushed with the creative side! Also remember that there really is no deadline for the show to be perfect. We’re still coming up with ideas to improve the show, a year and a half after we started and 6 months after we got a 5 star review! We also have a lot of friends who have their own companies – some a few years ahead of us, some 10 years ahead of us – and these people were invaluable for advice and support. We’ve been sent example versions of press releases and tech riders and all those sorts of things you don’t even know you’ll need until you’re asked for it!

We’re very much looking forward to creating our next show, taking on board everything we’ve learned this time around, and every festival and venue we go to gets easier and easier, because we already have these important things in place.


Interview by Emma Windsor


Don’t miss ‘The Tale of the Cockatrice’ at the Theatre Shop, Clevedon, North Somerset on 28th and 29th December 2017 (performances at 11am and 2pm.)  To find out more and book your tickets, visit the Theatre Shop website.


Read the full story about the development of ‘The Tale of the Cockatrice‘ in previous Puppet Place News Blog interviews with Katie Underhay ( August 2016 & June 2017.)  Find out more about Katie’s work and Mumblecrust Theatre at their website:  and join them on Facebook for the latest news.


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