2 August 2013

The unique language of the puppet

Last weekend saw 'The Art and Soul of the Puppet' winter weekend workshop, which focused on professional development through the medium of paper, objects, movement and sound. The workshop ran from Friday to Sunday evening and was broken up into components building on both improvisation and performance skills.

Puppetry has its own language, not necessarily spoken language, but a language no less. The different forms of puppetry are different dialects of the same language.  Here we are working in the medium of paper and light.  The breathing and dialogue is evoked by the movement and light.  The moments have to be slow, contemplative with the periods of immobility, where the puppet character is immobile, being as important as the movements themselves. This helps to make the movements convincing and believable to the audience.  Breathing has to continue all the time. By trusting in the paper, you are opening up the same trust to the audience who will believe with you. Each movement must have a reason and be convincing. Don't just move the character for the sake of moving it. The character must know what it's looking at and focusing on. This is very important to enable the character to be convincing and be alive to the audience.

During the workshop, we also looked at Object Improvisation. The infusion of a magical or supernatural element into non-living objects is not new in human history. Part of the belief system of primitive man is that there is a live being within both animate and inanimate things. In terms of the puppeteer, the relationship between the object and the life it develops through animation is akin to the relationship between the concrete idea and the abstraction. The additional element that is native to puppet drama is the strong psychological connection between the animated object and the puppeteer. You can see an extract of the participants' wonderful object work above.

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