A trip to the Victoria & Albert Museum….!

I was recently fortunate enough to be invited to audition with “Oily Cart” for their new production “Ring-a-ding-ding“.  This necessitated me once again trying to find the cheapest way of getting to London and back.  I eventually settled on a drive to Skipton, a megabus to London and a train back to Skipton departing at eightish in the evening.

The huge time gap between the end of the audition and the return train filled me with glee, as this gave me an excuse to visit that fantastic storehouse of wonders: The Victoria & Albert Museum!

I naturally was planning on taking a look at the puppets in the theatre section.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get round to seeing the museum of childhood section but there were plenty of other things on display in any case.

I knew the Little Angel would have some puppets on display, as they had been getting them out of storage when I visited for my Goldilocks audition with them.

After tearing myself away with difficulty from the other collections in the museum, I eventually located the theatre section.  Sure enough, Little Angel’s puppets were there, beautifully displayed in a fantastically carved reclaimed theatre box.

There are far more puppets in the V & A’s collections than are on display at any given time.  There is also a wide variety of educational source material, take a look at the website, where you can find more information on all of the things I’ve taken photos of here.

For those who are confused about what relevance the pictures of the refreshment rooms may have.  I have a personal interest in William Morris and his contemporaries because his links with the Pre-Raphaelite movement.  I did extensive research into this area for my A-level art and design personal project.  I find his wallpaper, tile and stained glass design work intensely satisfying to look at and the philosophy behind it admirable.  Although he has been appropriated in the modern day by the bourgeoisie, at the time his ideas were very radical and involved the ordinary worker regaining dignity and satisfaction from the things he made rather than being just another cog in the wheel of the factory system.

I also think it is important as a theatre maker to have a wide ranging interest in different areas and art forms.  I am very keen on cross collaboration and while specialising in one thing alone can result in high technical prowess, it can be a limited and limiting approach.  I am all for diversity and creativity, hence my attending the Decibel Performing Arts Showcase in Manchester recently.  I shall tell you about that in another post.

For similar reasons I have included pictures of masks.  There is a lot to be said for using a combination of masks and puppetry, as seen in the Lion King Musical stage show and the work of Horse + Bamboo, to mention a couple.  It could be said that a puppet is like a full body mask into which the performer projects their energy, but also uses it as a disguise to hide behind.

I have recently heard from enthusiasts in the Toy Theatre world, that Toy Theatre practitioners hate puppets; who are the enemy because they are more dynamic and accessible and get more attention as a result.  Similarly I have heard hard-line puppeteers decrying the use of puppets by actors in a “storytelling” capacity.  My personal view is that producing great theatre that entertains people is the most important thing, and that any techniques or materials you might use should serve that aim.  That is a mistake that a lot of modern films make.  They get carried away with the technique of the special effects and forget about telling the story well.

Speaking of Toy Theatre, some of you may be wondering about what has happened to the other half of my Toy Theatre adventures in Blackpool.  I was aware that I hadn’t posted anything for a while and thought I would get this one out quickly while I work on finishing the Blackpool post, so eyes peeled for that coming soon!

I am also aware, that I am in the main, woefully ignorant of the history of a lot of the puppets etc. that I have photographed above.  I am also aware that I am getting very few comments on my blog, so please, please!  If you have any extra information on the things in this post please do contribute.  Equally, if you have an opinion on any of the things I’ve mentioned please say!  I would love to have a discussion with you!  Just click on the post title and a comment box and “sharing” options will appear at the bottom.

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2 thoughts on “A trip to the Victoria & Albert Museum….!

  1. Bravo bravo! I wholesomely agree with you about taking inspiration from all art areas and not so quickly disregarding other techniques in favour of the ones you’re familiar with 🙂 I’m an illustrator/comic artist, but my interests in puppets is constantly growing (especially with this blog), and I hope in the future I can figure out ways to incorporate the stylistic flexibility of illustration into the immediacy and interactivity of puppets. I love so many different art forms, but I realise more and more how I cant do everything well myself, you have to tap into other artists techniques and ideas to make the most of a story. Its definitely (in my opinion) all about the story 🙂

    • Thankyou so much for commenting on the post, I hope I get a few more opinions or information as well as yourself.
      I have to admit it is nice to have someone agree with you, but if we’re to get a discussion going it would be interesting to have someone disagree with me too. I am severely allergic to criticism, but I do like a good argument as well!

      I would suggest that Toy Theatre is your first most logical step towards puppetry as this will use your 2-d illustration skills. There is a marvellous film called Dante’s Inferno which is like a toy theatre style film. Unfortunately it is not available to buy in this country, (please let me know if I’m mistaken anybody) but you can see clips of it online and it looks fantastic.

      Then of course there is shadow puppetry, if you fancy working with silhouettes. Check out Lotte Reiniger’s stuff, I have her Hansel & Gretel in another post, but there are others on You Tube too.

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