My first day in rehearsals - time to try out some puppet ideas. In previous meetings with Heidi and Harriet we'd discussed how the puppetry might work in the show and how appearances by the puppet creatures could act as links across the entire narrative. The 'ally' cat in particular could be a companion for Ellie. I made a rough mock-up cat with a lovely springy back and animated tail which could be operated by 1, 2 or 3 people. We had it leaping around the stage, walking along the fence and climbing a ladder. Everyone loves the cat! It moves so gracefully. It's one of my best.
Sarah Moody had a brilliant idea about turning musical instruments into puppets so we tried fixing bits and bobs to various percussion thingys and twangy noisy devices... and this is what we came up with; A ludirously convincing frog, a stomping beetle shaker, a rattling centipede and 2 wavering bees attached to instruments called tumbi(?) - you twang the steel string and flex the sides and it makes a wobbly springy sound. Working alongside movement director Anna Croxon we started developing sympathetic body shapes and reactions for the 3 performers to help give the puppets more impact. This is an aspect of puppetry that often gets overlooked but Anna completely gets it!
I was also given the job of developing the plant growing moments. Heidi was keen to avoid twee little flowers popping up on sticks; she had in mind something like time lapse photography where the plants slowly expand into being with tremendous latent force. We played around with a vine creeping along the floor and a sunflower growing up the side of a washing line. I also wanted to have a pumpkin grow before your eyes so I rigged up a polythene bag with tubes and a one way valve so it could be inflated. We played around with various leaf growing moments the most successful of which was the step ladder sprouting broom handle branches with little popping out leaves.
Even at this early stage the puppet moments are working well and seem to be in tune with Heidi and Harriet's vision. I'm enjoying the process a lot... It's experimental and imaginative and I wish I could work like this all the time!
Marc Parrett (Puppetry director)