The Puppet Challenge Part 6: Liz and the legend of ‘L’Ebérou’

Liz King Sangster: Boy into Goat

Liz Sangster and I first met over three decades ago. We worked together in the theatre. She was head of the scenic department at Welsh National Opera when I washed up there, a totally inexperienced and panic-stricken ‘designer’, clutching a stash of costume sketches and a stage-set model, the latter of which she was charged with transforming into a reality. A year later the production premiered at the New Theatre in Cardiff, and by then Liz and I were the best of friends. These days we live too far apart, Liz and Graham in the Dordogne, and Peter and I in mid-Wales. Thank goodness for e-mails!

Some of the things I’ve been most impressed by in this project, are the endless lengths contributors have gone to to get to their finished puppets. It simply wouldn’t be possible to show every stage of all of the journeys, besides which, most of the makers held back from progress reports. However, Liz kept me up to speed with all her thinking on the project, and because her work was so meticulous and process-led, I’ve decided to devote an entire post to illustrate how she produced her interpretation of a French folktale.

She began with a storyboard. From the start Liz saw what she was doing as narrative-led, and she intended (and I believe still intends) to produce it as a puppet-film. Her storyboard-art is wonderfully lively, worked in a limited and atmospheric palette. (The story takes place at night.) Here’s a slightly edited version, annotated with a simplified narrative.

red-headed EhBeh is sleeping in his bed, dreaming of bells and goats

he awakes with a start at the curtain flapping at the open window

though still dark, he has a compulsion to see the fountain in the heart of the forest. He rises and runs through the night

at the fountain his strips off his nightshirt and binds it around his head before throwing himself into the waters

he splashes about in the moonlight

suddenly beneath the surface of the water, he can see words swirling.

before EhBeh knows what’s happening, the fountain’s spell has turned him into a goat

However the words of the spell also offer a way to reverse the transformation, and EhBeh-the-goat heads off to fulfil the conditions before daybreak

he approaches St Georges de Monclar

15-streets

while cantering through the streets on his quest…

a menacing figure blocks his way…

but EhBeh wins the scuffle.

Once the narrative was in place and storyboarded up to this ‘cut-off’ point (there’s more, but Liz says that must be for another day), work began on the puppet design and manufacture. Liz employed an admirable simplicity. Nevertheless the puppets are strikingly effective, and I really feel for the plight of the lanky EhBeh, both in his form as a young man, and as a goat.

Above: EhBeh asleep

Below: hanging in the kitchen at La Crabouille

Above: Liz designed, but has not yet had time to make, the stone ‘Fountain-head’ character of her storyboard. I really like the idea that the enchanted words pour from his maw, written in glitter on dark fabric manipulated to look like turbulent waters.

Once EhBeh, boy and goat, were finished, Liz went the extra mile and photographed and pasted images of the puppets into her digital storyboard. Here are a few of the frames. I love EhBeh’s skinny legs and flapping nightshirt.

As time was growing too short to begin work on the filming, Liz turned instead to making images of the characters for the Puppet Challenge exhibition, and she created sets in her studio from antique picture-frames and paintings that were lying around. With consummate artistry, she turned the photo-shoot into something entirely creative and delightful in its own right.

I intend to encourage Liz to continue with the project when time allows. The storyboard, the puppets and the character of the presentation, is a dark delight leavened with the charm of her wonky-legged boy-into-goat. And the picture-framed character-studies add another layer of pleasure. I’d like, too, to see the story translated into paintings, because she is the most marvellous painter.

21 thoughts on “The Puppet Challenge Part 6: Liz and the legend of ‘L’Ebérou’

  1. Pingback: The Puppet Challenge Part 13: Judy, Jennifer, Michael & Benjamin, Penny, Charlotte and Liisa | Clive Hicks-Jenkins' Artlog:

  2. Fabulous work, Liz! I love the delicacy of the puppets, particularly the ‘ball of string’ goat with his flying legs. Even more thrilling is the way you put them into sets for the photos – superb! Thank you for this brilliant work.

  3. Pingback: The Puppet Challenge 2, and my first drive in the jellymould! | lizkingsangster

  4. This is just wonderful, from the concept sketches to the finished tableaux; just fantastic stuff. What a thoughtful and clever production!
    Lg

  5. Such delicate working of puppets and I love the storyboard in the limited palette. As others have said, linking the two together is very clever and the photographs in the picture frames turns them into classic masters. Great work.

  6. this is so fantastic! i really like this story, of a fountain of words…the arrangement of which can transform the character. is there more detail to the story? i will go look, i *love* the idea!! i also am smitten with the story board illustrations, and i am once again amazed by how people have come to ‘form’ their characters in 3d, it seems that no two are alike! it makes the world feel so big!
    beautifully-staged scenes, as well! great post!

    • Hi Philippa

      That’s the funniest thing, EhBeh started off as a gangly, spotty, stupid youth who I felt was better off remaining as a goat. But then he changed and I ended up with 2 actors/puppets, each with its individual personality. Strange how they take over. My next challenge is to see if I can make a puppet I don’t like!

      xL

  7. What an inspiration. I love the studio set absolutely brilliant, the creative simplicity of Liz’s puppets and her lively story board. I’m looking forward to seeing the puppet-film and more photos of work in progress.

  8. With the puppets placed in those sets created with old picture frames and paintings as backdrops Liz has created something really magical, well done Liz, you’re an inspiration

  9. Clive you are too kind in giving over a whole post to EhBeh. He/I, surely do not deserve it over anyone else. I suspect, Clive, you are once again attempting to boost my all-too-flimsy confidence, which you’ve had to do time and time again during this project.
    Thanks for the comments guys: Peter, Gail, Karen and Charlotte. It’s good of you all! (There is a written ending to the story on my blog, though haven’t storyboarded it yet.)

  10. I can’t quite decide which I like best; the energy of the storyboarding, a book in themselves, surely. Or the simple brilliance of the puppets. I have pored of these as they are so good.

  11. I love the process she used to create her puppet studies. The picture framed characters already look like a painting . . . or shadow boxes that could be hung on a wall. I never heard of this story before. Yes, does the goat turn back into a human?

  12. This has to be some of the most thorough ground work for making a puppet i have ever seen – Well done Liz! it all looks fanatastic!

    Can’t wait to see the finished film 🙂 (you’ve left us on a real cliff hanger – we need to know what happens to the hero!)

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