philippa and the toone puppets

Above: drawing in progress by Philippa Robbins of marionettes from the Toone Theatre.

I’m not the only one who found inspiration at the Toone Theatre on our recent trip to Brussels. I returned home fired by the idea of borrowing on the simple carved faces of the Toone puppets in order to create the character of Joseph for The Soldier’s Tale.

From Toone puppet…

… to a drawing of a Toone puppet in my notebook…


 … to Joseph the Soldier.

And while I made maquettes and then animated them, my friend Philippa returned to her studio to produce a magnificent Conté drawing of puppets from the historic Toone collection.

Having had a preview of the works Philippa has prepared for her forthcoming exhibition, Magical Thinking, at the Art Shop Gallery in Abergavenny, I can promise that art-lovers are in for a treat. In addition to this beautiful drawing there will be some smaller ‘Toone’ paintings in the show, for those of us who are in thrall to the puppets.

Below: details from Philippa’s drawing.

When we were in Brussels Philippa and I fantasised about having an adventure together. We planned a venue in the great European tradition of café/bars, where in the evenings we would mount puppet shows to entrance patrons. Not puppet shows for children, but puppet shows that would be darkly erotic, rumbustious and subversive. The programme would always be a secret, so no-one in the audience would know what was on offer until it happened, and the puppets and the scenery, which Philippa and I would make, would of course be works of art that afterwards would be sold to discerning patrons! (This is how, innocents that we are, we planned to create some extra income!) I’m not sure that Philippa is particularly keen on working the puppets, so that task would probably fall to me, though I’d enlist the skills of Dave and Philippa’s daughters Oonagh and Lauren, who I’m sure would make wonderful puppeteers, and would just need a little encouragement and coaching from me to bring out their performing skills!

Well, I guess the puppet theatre will remain a fantasy for us to occasionally dip into for inspiration. But at the very least Philippa and I should one day have a joint exhibition where we can indulge our passion for puppets, and  we should start seriously planning for that.

10 thoughts on “philippa and the toone puppets

  1. lovely line work in those pencil sketches.

    Oddly I have a similar daydream fantasy,

    but mine involves a retro ice cream van which has been converted into a mobile puppet theatre called ‘the Puppet Wagon’ which I then drive around the country giving impromptu performances from as I go.

  2. Fabulous stuff! I may be able to make costume from a flat bit of fabric but I do envy you both the ability to recreate folds and fringes with a pencil, the exquisite fine lines and features and details you capture are amazing. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Thanks for the lovely words and comments. And yes, Clive, we should work toward a joint exhibition – something quite different!

  4. Wow, these are wonderful drawings – once again I wish I could see the exhibition – I am going to have to spend more time in Wales.

  5. Some fantastic work has come out of your recent trip to Brussells. The Toone theatre has clearly been a real inspiration for you both. I’m knocked out by Philippa’s drawing of the marionettes, it’s just brilliant. I can’t wait for the exhibition to see the work in the flesh. This looks like a drawing you could spend a lot of time looking at. I just marvel at the way she had done the various fabrics on the clothing and the way each face is a wonderful portrait

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