We’re Back! 2 puppeteers and a baby at Settle Stories

As you know, from my previous post, I have been very busy recently with my pregnancy and then looking after baby Anthony.

Well, Anthony has passed his first birthday and it’s back to work again for me.

Settle Stories (an excellent storytelling festival, local to us) took place just a few days after the end of my maternity leave so we decided to visit the “Artists Hangout” at the Bell tent and catch up with some other artists, and the festival organisers to see if there were opportunities to be involved in the future.

We met some very interesting people – including Hassan El Geretly, (artistic director of El Warsha Theatre Company from Egypt) and a lady called Nicky – a storyteller based in Manchester.  We also met up with a painting teacher, a landscape photographer/artist, some actors and a small number of the actual performers from the festival itself.  These included Darius Nash and Tamar Eluned Williams, who were performing Stories for the Silver Tree.  Darius was also leading a clowning workshop at the festival.  Here is their Youtube video below for this performance:

The festival organisers Sita Brand and Charles Tyrer were also there and spoke about their plans for developing longer term relationships with artists at the festival.  This, they hoped, would allow artists to get to know each other and the people and environment of Settle.

After the meeting, we went into the “Dungeons & Dragons” cafe in the Friends Meeting House which was really wonderful – decorated with cobwebs and a handmade dragon on the wall.  All of the refreshments were themed and the helpers were all in costume.  Not only that but on each table there was a little handmade Dungeons & Dragons game with little tiddly-winks for counters so you could have a game with your refreshments!

Unfortunately, it was a rainy day but this did not seem to put off the dauntless British punters: the cafes and streets were certainly crowded at lunchtime!  After our lunch we decided to have a go (in what time we had left) at the geo-caching story trail.  We successfully found one cache in the vicinity of the Friends Meeting House, (I’m not allowed to say where or it will spoil it for other people) and tried our hardest to find another one somewhere near the old signal box at Settle train station but neither Tim or myself had any luck.

We did find that the Friends of Settle and Carlisle Railway had volunteers showing off the restored old signal box and letting people have a go pulling the levers and making the lights show and the bells sound.  Tim and myself took it in turns to hunt for caches with Anthony at ground level and go up to the signal box.  We even got a commemorative certificate to show we’d had a go at operating the signals!

It would have been nice to have had time to sample more of the shows and workshops but we did have a thoroughly enjoyable and relaxing time while we were there.  I believe the Listening Gallery is a permanent installation so we’ll be able to pop back and visit that on another occasion.


I’m back doing shadow puppet shows and workshops in primary schools again, now that my maternity leave is over.  These workshops fit with the topics of light and shadow and traditional tales, making them ideal for the primary curriculum. These workshops involve a short show by me (“Jabberwocky“, “Edward Lear’s Nonsense” or “The Interrupted Wedding“) followed by the children making their own puppets and putting on their own shows in groups.  If you would like me to come and work with your school please CONTACT ME for more information and to book 🙂


We are also available for street theatre walkabouts featuring either of the Shadow Puppet Suitcase shows (“Jabberwocky” & “Edward Lear’s Nonsense“) and the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party walkabout show.

Edward Lear’s Nonsense is the perfect show for food festivals.  The suitcase shows are also perfect for Christmas entertainment or for a festival of light and I have costumes to fit all of these occasions.

Don’t hesitate to contact me to book or for more information.


We’re producing a new larger-scale shadow puppet show, suitable for large audiences in schools and other indoor venues.  It’s early days for the project but I can reveal that it’s based on the traditional Japanese Fairy Tale “The Magic Ear”.  The show has an environmental theme and can include an accompanying junk percussion workshop.

We’re taking bookings for Autumn this year and 2019.  Email me here if you’d like to know more.  I’ll be blogging about the project in detail soon – keep your eyes peeled!


Monsters in Redcar, Woven Grass and Mrs. Santa

Horse + Bamboo’s Angus Mcphee

You have probably noticed that I have gone a bit quiet for a few weeks, but that is not because there’s been nothing going on.

We had a lovely time performing at the “That’s the Way to Do It” puppet festival at Kirkleatham Museum in Redcar.  Our giant Jabberwocky monster enjoyed getting out of the Rough Magic Theatre shed and menacing people.

Unfortunately as is often the case, both Tim and myself were performing at the same time so we could not take any decent photo’s.  There are however a couple of quite good shots in a slideshow at the bottom of the page in this local newspaper,  (click here to look).

We did struggle a little with the glass roof in the performance space for “Alice” which both let in a bit too much light for the best viewing of the shadow puppets and also leaked water onto us when there was a sudden downpour.  But I am told that they are looking to replace the roof next year and they are looking forward to it being a much improved performance space as a result.

On Sunday, as you’ve probably guessed from the picture, we went to see one of the extremely few performances in England of Horse + Bamboo’s Angus Mcphee – Weaver of Grass.  There is a link to Bob Frith’s blog about the show on my blogroll.

I have been a very big fan of Horse + Bamboo’s work for many years.  I first I saw them perform “Harvest of Ghosts” at Streets Ahead in Manchester some years back.  I liked that show because it combined powerful imagery, atmospheric music and a deeply affecting moral message.  I had also been impressed with the dark humour and the way the story was expressed so clearly with such minimal use of words.  Indeed, spoken words were entirely absent but there was some use of written signs to express meaning.

Angus Mcphee had a very different atmosphere to that particular production though it had some of the same hallmarks.  It was a biography of a real man, Angus Mcphee, a crofter.  It covered his childhood in a very joyful, energetic and funny way.  It made good use of a variety of different types of puppet as well as masks, including glove puppets, some lovely horses and a cow with an udder made from a red rubber glove.

They used something which I think is a relatively recent innovation for them, which was shadow puppet film.  It was beautifully done and achieved effects that would have been impossible to do live, but I think they lacked the life and immediacy of live shadow puppetry.

They dealt with the darker areas of Angus’s history very well too and I was particularly impressed by the way they portrayed Angus’s treatment in the mental institution.

I ended the play being intensely interested in the real Angus Mcphee and although his story was sad I was not swept away emotionally.  This was partly because, as a puppeteer and theatre practitioner, I was busy dissecting the techniques they were using and working out how things were done.  The other part though, was that I think the show achieved perfect Brechtian alienation through the use of masks, puppets, puppeteers and singers on view, non-realistic scenery, projections etc.  I don’t know if this was the same for everyone who watched the piece, but I felt entertained and instructed but not swept away by emotional empathy, (Brecht would be proud).

I am also back working with the infamous Leo Nolan, (Rough Magic Theatre’s former artistic director).  After a break doing other things he is returning in the charming guise of the hilariously inept Ralph the Elf.  Together with Mrs. Santa, (yours truly) they decide to put up a Christmas tree, just as they do every year.  What could possibly go wrong?  Stuffed to the brim with slapstick, this is a cheery little show for younger children.  You can see more information on this, and other shows and workshops for Christmas on the new Christmas Events page, (CLICK HERE).

Don’t forget we have a page with shows and workshops for Halloween events too, (CLICK HERE).