Bye 2014 – Hello 2015!


Hello again everyone!  The above images are from last year and did not make it into my blogs at the time because my phone whose camera these pictures were taken on died and I only recently managed to successfully retrieve the photo’s.

The first few pictures are from Buxton Puppet Festival where I saw Peter Piper Puppets version of Punch & Judy and Diddley Dee Puppets show “Rabbits to the Rescue”.

You may recall in a previous post that I held forth (at some length) against the “dumbing down” of Mr Punch with misplaced sense of political correctness.  Very soon after that I encountered this performance in which the puppeteer declared in no uncertain terms at the beginning of the show that this was exactly what he WAS planning to do.  Poor Mr. Punch was transformed into a sad and pathetic individual who not only didn’t get to hit anyone with a slapstick but was instead on the receiving end of a giant pencil wielded by a clumsy social worker in the form of Joey the clown, (among other indignities).  This was after Mr. Punch lost the baby after trying to teach the baby to walk.

The audience seemed to enjoy the show and “Peter Piper” rounded off the show by turning the audience into an impromptu band to process to the next outdoor entertainment.

However, in my opinion one of the best parts of the show were Mr Punch’s dog being taken for a walk by the puppeteer prior to the show and “weeing” all over the audience (with the cunning deployment of a not wholly invisible water pistol).  The other fun part was two unconventional “stagehand” characters whose function was to appear and hammer and saw at various parts of the booth and to tell the audience that the show wasn’t ready and hadn’t started yet.

“Rabbits to the Rescue” was obviously intended for an audience younger than myself and I have to admit to finding it a little twee.  For what it was though it was a lot of fun and the children obviously enjoyed it.  It was well performed and the puppets were very charming and nicely constructed.

I also attended Mintfest in Kendal as an X-trax delegate last year and that is where the other photo’s are from.

The previous year’s Mintfest (2013) we had been busy performing all day Saturday and Sunday with our “Fred Fettler’s “Pony 3000″ – The Transport of the Future!” show in the Westmorland Shopping Centre and thus had not had much time to see other people’s shows or to talk to bookers about our work.

“The Table of Thoughts” was an installation which was in an upstairs shop space in the Westmorland Shopping Centre.  I thought this was a very brave and unusual thing to include in a street arts festival but Mintfest are very good at including things that are a bit more challenging and different.  The installation consisted of a dining table with various peculiar “place settings” and foodstuffs.  The audience can sit at any seat at the table and by listening to an audio file from an mp3 player through earphones get a voice-over of the internal thoughts of the person whose place they are sat in.  This monologue is reflected in the appearance of the place setting in front of them as well.  In addition to this there are general ambient, but subdued, sound effects such as cutlery being used and muted unintelligible conversation.  I listened to all of the monologues, each of which was quite unique, and enjoyed them thoroughly.

I also had the opportunity to take part in our good friends at Frolicked’s game called “The Birds”.  We had heard them talking about this project at an X-Trax shorts presentation previously so it was great to get an opportunity to try it out.  We had to find a missing endangered bird, (who I am pictured with above) in teams.  I was with a dad and his little girl and another couple, none of whom I’d met before.  I did wonder if being in a team of other people I didn’t know would be awkward but they were all lovely and the activity was extremely challenging, exciting and fun!  It was obviously meant to be done in a group of mixed adults and children as some of the tasks/clues would be too difficult for small children and the challenges set were hard enough to be totally engaging and exciting for adults.  I am sorry to say that our team did not win though I think we did a touch better than some of the others.  I am saying no more but if you get a chance to take part in this game yourself, I would wholeheartedly recommend it.

One of the other puppetry offerings at Mintfest was Burek the marionette dog – puppeteered by Lucasz Puczko.  He is from Poland and has travelled to lots of different countries with this act.  I have recently found out at the X-trax Northern Street Arts Networking event that Lucasz enjoyed the reactions of the audiences in Kendal so much that he has now moved to England to live and work and is currently based in Bradford.

It was very refreshing, after hearing a bit of doom and gloom from a lot of people on the state of the industry in this country and the amount of work/money/opportunities available, that someone would actively seek out England as a place to work because of the friendliness of the people and the audiences.  Jeremy Shine was very keen to promote Lucasz’s act on the basis of it developing a hitherto untapped audience – dogs!

A lot of dogs seemed keen to interact with Burek but most seemed a bit disturbed by something that looked and moved like a dog but obviously did not smell like one!

I have heard a lot of people say that the best way to keep new year’s resolutions is to put them down publicly on a blog like this.

Last year was a good one for us in many ways with a lot of firsts.  We produced a new show “Clueless & Wuffles” for Glastonbury, (which we were attending for the first time).  I performed at Morecambe Variety Festival and also did workshops and performances for a number of Primary Schools that I hadn’t visited before.

Tim and I performed in Skelmersdale with our Mad Hatter’s Tea Party walkabout show, (somewhere I have never visited or performed before).  Together with Rough Magic Theatre founder member Leo Nolan I created a French Nursery Rhymes for beginners show: “Nursery Rhymes with Monsieur le Fou” for Wakefield Grammar School Foundation on European Languages Day.

And to crown the year off I created a new light up costume for another event I hadn’t been involved with previously the “Light Up Lancaster” illuminations event.

We were also invited back to what is becoming a regular event the CARnival Bentham.  My ever popular Shadow Puppet Suitcase shows had a lot of airings as did the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party and the Hansel & Gretel and “The Interrupted Wedding” shows made a couple of appearances too.

My resolution always tends to be to get more work.  I have been doing well with my aim to get more work doing “light and shadow” workshops in schools in Spring, Autumn and Winter but more schools work would be welcome, (please get in touch if you’d like a workshop/show or both in your school).  I shall be visiting a school in Hartlepool on Monday and I shall let you know how we get on next week.

I would also like to get more work with our main hour long indoor show “Alice in Wonderland” as last year was a quiet year for this show whilst being a popular one for the show’s offshoot Mad Hatter’s Tea Party walkabout show.  Please get in touch if you are interested in booking either of these for your school, theatre, literature festival, book day etc.

In order to get more done I am also resolving to get up earlier rather than hearing the alarm go off and falling back asleep again.  I also therefore have to go to bed on time and I am also trying to build more exercise into my schedule.

It would also be great (time permitting) to finally finish of the new version of the Rough Magic Theatre Website that has been ongoing for a couple of years now.  I also resolve to be more disciplined about doing the old social media regularly rather than the rather hap-hazard approach that I’ve been taking recently.

It would be really great to hear what your New Year’s Resolutions are too.  Please leave a reply on this post, (business or personal goals or both) 🙂


Making Toy Theatre Work in the U.K. – Hansel & Gretel at childrens parties and other settings

Hello everyone, you may have noticed that the last blog I did was a review and that I have not said anything about all the things I got up to before Christmas.  So here’s a post to rectify the situation.

I had been finding it very difficult to sell the Hansel & Gretel Toy Theatre show in this country, despite it going down so well at the Vischmarkt Papierentheater Festival in Harderwijk, The Netherlands.

This was firstly because Toy Theatre is not as well known and popular in this country as it is on the continent.  Secondly, you are limited to a small audience and many people wish to squeeze as many audience members as they can in to a venue when they have booked a show.

I solved the first problem by creating a video trailer for the show.  You can now see this on our website, (CLICK HERE FOR SHOW PAGE).  This means that anyone with no experience of Toy Theatre (and our particular take on it) can now get a good idea of what the show is like.

It appears that the second problem has also been solved simply by using the show in places where a small audience is an advantage.  The show is perfect for small scale venues or smaller groups, such as Children’s parties and Pupil Referral Units, (where children who are struggling in mainstream education for whatever reason are taken out to be taught in smaller groups.  They get more individual attention and staff are trained to deal with their needs and difficulties).

We were booked by a family who we did a Pirate Party for earlier in the year, (for their son Henry) to do something for their daughter’s birthday and the “Hansel & Gretel” show immediately came to mind.  The show kept 15 wriggly energetic kids of a wide variety of ages, (mostly between 4 and 6) absorbed, quiet and still for a full 30 minutes and the adults seemed to really love it too.  We then filled the rest of the time with various musical songs and games.

Similarly spellbound were the children at Bradley PRU, who stayed still throughout, though they did react to and interact with the story.  Afterwards we had lots of unprompted positive feedback both from the children and the staff, as well as a lot of questions about how we made the show and so on.  One of the staff said that it was the quietest they’d ever seen them.  After a brief break, the children made their own individual shoe-box toy theatres like I did for Buxton Puppet Festival in 2011, (CLICK HERE FOR BUXTON POST).  The children did excellent work, were very absorbed by the task and seemed to enjoy themselves very much.

The family who we did the party for mentioned the idea of getting us back again this year for their son’s birthday again.  With this in mind, we need to think of some new party formats.  This year we are going to be updating our main website, ( and one of the things we intend to include is all of the different sorts of parties that we can do.

I have had suggestions already of puppet making parties, but would like more feedback on the sorts of themes and activities that people think would be popular.  Please leave your suggestions in the comments box at the bottom, (you have to click on the title of the blog post for the comments box to appear).

The “where you can see me” page has been updated and will continue to be updated as I get confirmation of more performances so watch this space 🙂