Death comes for the Little Bear

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Death comes for the little bear

OK, so he isn’t actually death, and he didn’t come for the Little Bear. But he could have.

Yup, I’m just back from another fascinating puppetry workshop by Rene Baker at Northern Stage. Over the course of two days we looked at how to explore an object or puppet to discover its innate characteristics, (using among other things the twin mechanisms of epistemic and ludic play), and how to bring it to life with its actions and – almost more important – reactions.

There was a moment on the first day as I was manhandling a curious puppet of brushes (one of Rene’s wonderful creations) that I thought ‘why am I a grown man with a job doing this?’ But, I parked that thought from the grumpy part of my mind and got on with playing. Because it is the playing which brings knowledge of the puppet or object, and without that knowledge our animation is shallow and/or unconvincing.

Over the two days we came to know the puppets moved and behaved, whether large floppy dog, unsavoury wood-man (surely an original ent), a flight of plastic ducks or a little bear. It turns out even pens want to behave in certain ways, and bunches of keys can be strangely attracted to ducks.

I am going to have to spend some time with my notes and my ducks to really grasp how this can all impact my practice and projects.

Overall, a exhausting, brain-mashing, wonderful two days. And if death had come for the Little Bear I think we would all have cried our eyes out.

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