Pinocchio’s Progeny


The past twelvemonth has been a time of far too many losses, with loved ones of long-standing fading and falling away. While it’s the time in my life when such things must be expected, 2018 has nevertheless been particularly brutal, and I’ve hated witnessing the cull in my circle.


Odd therefore that these two little creatures are playing so much on my mind. Perhaps it’s because of the strange alchemy of puppetry that wood, fashioned by a master and in the hands of the most incredible interpreters, can so astonishingly conjure animate life, tugging at our heartstrings and becoming so plausibly, heartrendingly real, that when I saw them being packed away by our producer at the end of the tour, with the hollow sense that I would not see them or hold them again (don’t ask), they somehow became the focus of all the losses of the year.


I miss them so much, and I wonder how such a thing can be. I suppose it’s because they are, after all, Pinocchio’s progeny, wood transformed into flesh and bone, and sap into blood. In order to believe in them, we make the puppets real, and I, who was one of their creators, find myself grieving over their absence from my life, more than I am comfortable with. That is both the miracle of making life out of nothing, and the curse.



Above: poet/librettist Simon Armitage, meets Gretel for the first time.


My heartfelt thanks to Jan Zalud (puppet-maker), Di Ford and Lizzie Wort (puppeteers) and Oonagh Creighton-Griffiths (puppet costumier), who shared in equal parts with me the creation of the puppets of Hansel and Gretel.

4 thoughts on “Pinocchio’s Progeny

  1. Your love of puppetry is evident in every word you write above, and I’m not surprised that these two exquisite puppets hold a very special place in your heart, Clive, especially as you were experiencing so many personal losses, at the same time as Hansel and Gretel were coming to life on stage. Like the Mari Lwyd before them, I was wondering if Hansel and Gretel happened along at just the right time to become mediators for your grief, after all you know better than most how puppets have acted as mirrors of our consciousness for thousands of years.

    Steve Abrams writes in his book on the history of American puppetry, “All objects have a story to tell, but puppets are objects with rare power.” He tells us that they are objects made specifically for performance and theatrical expression, like masks. Puppets and masks were not made to be seen as silent, still artefacts in a case, so when viewed like this questions arise, Abrams writes, “How did they move? What did they say? Why was this kind of puppet crafted and what role did it play?” The person who knows those answers is the puppeteer, who possesses the artistry to transform a wooden puppet into flesh and blood before our eyes. Without a puppeteer, those questions go unanswered, and that would be a very sad state of affairs indeed, so let’s hope for you that a trail of shining white pebbles will one day return Hansel and Gretel to your door, and bring puppets and master puppeteer together again.

  2. This is a beautiful entrance to the year, Clive. It has made me cry. Because, for me 2018 has been a difficult year, too, though with parts that saved it. And I know you have had similar parts that saved your year. Those beautiful ‘puppet children’ you have contributed to, will have been one of those parts, and they surely represent those absences you feel the most. But those loved ones that leave for ‘the other side’ also stay with us, held in our hearts, extensions of ourselves. And when needed, one feels they are still there to comfort and to cherish, and even to talk to…

    Here in Madrid I was not able to listen to the BBC3 broadcast. I hope there will soon be a DVD, or better, a Blu Ray of the show, to watch and listen to again and again.

    Meanwhile, I send you my best wishes for this New Year

    • Dearest Maria

      I have to write to you about a certain something that was waiting for us at Ty Isaf when we returned home a couple of days ago from our Christmas adventures in France and New Year in Cardiff with friends. I will e-mail you very soon.

      In the meantime, Peter and I wish you and Javier a year that will be consistently gentle and joyful. May 2019 be kind to all of us.

      I will report back about the dvd later. We are in the process of sorting things out!

      With warmest love and hugs, C + P

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