puppeteer auditions: part 1

Above left to right: Cadi Lane, Ruby Spencer, Camilla Clarke, Diana Ford and Lizzie French try out the front legs of a Mari Lwyd.

Today was spent auditioning a spectacularly talented group of students from the puppet design course at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. James Slater, Ann Prior and I had a wonderful time working with them, and we owe a great debt of gratitude to tutor Tina Reeves for having shortlisted the students and arranged for us to work with them.

Above: Tina Reeves (centre) organised the audition. Diana Ford and Camilla Clarke watch from the floor.

Alas we can invite only one to join us, and it was greatly to their credit that Cadi, Ruby, Camilla and Lizzie, who are all students in their second year, were clearly delighted to see graduate Diana Ford offered the opportunity to join the Mare’s Tale team.

Above: Head Puppeteer on The Mare’s Tale, Ann Prior (right) working with graduate Diana Ford.

In fact so impressed were we, that James and I have determined to approach Tina to see whether the girls might be invited to work on another project we have in development for Mid Wales Chamber Orchestra, because we really don’t want to miss out on working with any of that talent.

Above: click to see the video of Diana Ford and Camilla Clarke get to grips with a Mari Lwyd puppet at the Royal Welsh College College of Music and Drama in Cardiff.

Above: click to see the video of the second Mari Lwyd puppet put through its paces by Diana and LIzzie.


Above: James Slater of Mid Wales Chamber Orchestra and I watch while Head Puppeteer to the production, Ann Prior, works with Cadi Lane.

Above: the designer explains.

Especial thanks to my friend Anita Mills from N Carolina, who’s staying with us this week and kindly took all the photographs and made the videos.

12 thoughts on “puppeteer auditions: part 1

  1. The puppet, by definition, is a liminal creature, and will never do – or should! – what is expected. No actor is more malleable or less trustworthy … All to the good.

  2. Monster talk from China Miéville: ” I’m tempted to say that part of the job a monster can do best is refuse to satisfy me, completely — which is good, because what I want for satisfaction is a kind of satiation, which usually translates into too much information, into overkill, into shining a light where a light has no business shining. In other words, the frustration that I feel at not understanding everything about a monster (indeed the weird, indeed anything fantastic) is both a sign that I am not fully satisfied and the only way of doing this with anything approaching success, I imagine. I want to know everything, but I don’t want that desire to be fulfilled.”

    Thought of that because we were talking about mystery and not explaining… And how that fits with this, and with changeable identity of the puppet.

  3. Fantastic to see the puppets imbued with life, how powerful they are in the hands of the puppeteers, they reward the subtlest move with so much expression and emotion. Even in that brightly lit room with everybody stood about you can’t take your eyes of the puppets, they’re mesmerising , congrats Clive, magical stuff

    • Thank you, Phil. It was heartening to see just how much talent there was in that room, and exciting too that James, wearing his producer’s hat, felt strongly about wanting to harvest it and give the four puppeteers who we couldn’t offer the job to, an opportunity to join us for another exciting MWCO project that’s ‘in development’.

  4. That was so moving Clive, I had tears in my eyes, how cleverly you pull emotion from the depths, I was about to start my day with many chores to do, emotions switched off (as you do) then wham, a few minutes of video, and I am full of sorrow, joy, empathy, elation at seeing an ethereal creature come to life.. I want to watch it again and again, but I have windows to clean, guests to serve and many tasks to do…thanks for showing this!

  5. The horse is really coming along nicely. Everyone is so focused in these pictures (no pun intended) – it looks like a great group. Nice to see your progress.

  6. Dear Clive,
    I just had the chance to see the enclosed video clip ( I was in class prior), Clive, it is so lovely. Really a wonderful, graceful, delicate creature, otherworldly but so tender. When he (he?) ascends like Christ, it is magical, such a majestic beast, yet again a modest beast. I so admire how you know what you want from the creature, your instructions to the puppeteers (I must say, you have a sweet and gentle voice, that does not at all come as a surprise to me but obviously I have never heard it before), is admirable; you gently command this beast to move as you wish. I suppose you have had some training in that field 🙂

    A real treat for those of us who have been watching Mari progress.
    Again, bravo .

    • This idea of tender monsters is on my mind of late, notably the minotaur but your Mari springing to graceful elegant life was another version of this tendency. I’m writing a short paper for a class I am taking, exploring the humanity we imbue monstrous creatures with. Why this tendency? I assume we relate so intimately with the Minotaur, with the Mari, etc. Seeing ourselves, brutish yet capable of tenderness.

      Your creation is very tender, at least in this instance ; I will be curious to see the creature in a frightening wrathful mode.

      • Yes, Ayrton’s magnificent conjuring of the Minotaur in his series of etchings chronicling its dreadful life (reviled by all), is a particularly good example of finding pathos in the condition of the unlovely. The Minotaur hunts down, kills and eats the young men and women thrown into its labyrinth, and yet Ayrton chooses to examine the terrible loneliness of the beast. In an image of unimaginable cruelty, the hybrid’s human mother reveals in a mirror held up to her monstrous offspring, the full horror of his otherness.

        Puppets are receptacles, vessels if you will, that reflect back at us what we pour into them. In the video you remark on my voice gently directing the puppeteers to elicit their performances, and the tender, majestic quality they invest the puppet with. But plunge the very same performances into shadows that hide as much as they reveal, and set the whole thing against the flesh-chilling evocation of dread in Mark Bowden’s music, and the Mari will yield an altogether different response from the audience.

    • Leonard, what a sweetie you are.

      Yesterday I wanted to see what the students could do, and calling them through a series of moves (and ideas) made it possible for us to get them showcasing their skills quite quickly. Every puppet under the sun has the means by which it can be operated, coupled with a physical appearance that will shape its characterisation. One puppet can yield many different qualities according to its handler/handlers, and it was interesting how this one sprang to life in different ways. There was tenderness in all five of the students, and it was wonderful to watch them channel into the puppet and bring it to delicate life. In the narrative of The Mare’s Tale, the Mari clearly has the power to terrify the central character of Morgan. But as in the case of all the best monsters, this one… or this version of this monster, because we have quite few… also has a capacity to engender pity in the viewer.

  7. This really must be so terribly exciting for you, to see what you have engineered so thoughtfully spring to life (in so many ways). Good for you!

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