Our first project was a group project looking into puppetry.
Initially, we looked into how to create shapes using Styrofoam or Polystyrene and how to cut them using a wooden template, then how to finish them off using sanding techniques. I preferred to use the Styrofoam, as it gave a better finish than the Polystyrene.
We studied different types of puppets; how they are made, where they are from, their uses and some famous designers and makers. We looked at:
Chinese glove puppets,
Paul Klee and his puppets he made for his son.
Rod puppets and glove style rod puppets
String puppets and marionettes, including shows created by Stephen Mottram
Chinese shadow puppets,
Royale de Luxe and
We studied making Bunraku puppets. Bunraku puppets are a form of table top puppet and can vary form a simply controlled rear rod puppet to a puppet with complicated mechanisms that will control facial expressions. The operators of the Bunraku puppets are seen as they are stood behind the table top. It is common for 3 people to control the Bunraku puppet; 1 for its head and body, 1 for its arms and 1 for its legs.
We made the Bunraku puppets using the Styrofoam pieces then glued them together using contact adhesive. We then needed to cut into the Styrofoam to create holes to string the puppets. The joints of the parts were then strung together to allow for controlled and realistic movement.
Our group discussed different themes that we could base our puppet show on. It was decided to look at the Mental Health issues and how sufferers can feel trapped and alone. These feelings can be displayed as a metaphorical state, such as trapped in a box. For sufferers this pain feels real and much more than metaphorical and we wanted to explore these feelings and issues and how a community can help.
We looked at how we could emphasise these deep feelings of loneliness and anxieties and decided to have a background of a community party with shadow puppets. The Bunraku puppet would be aware of these other puppets, but feel they were out of reach and ‘untouchable’.
The lighting of any stage performance is important too. It emphasises mood, as does the sound-track.
Blue lighting would highlight the depression. Blue is a cold colour and when one is sad, they are said to be feeling blue. Orange and yellow lighting are warm colours and will be used to show happiness. The end will fade to black.
The sound track will start with sad music in a minor key, but will change to happier, up-beat music (La La Land). Music faded out to finish the performance.
Shadow puppets: We decided to use shadow puppets to give an extra dimension to the performance and show the difference between the characters. Due to the limited number of puppeteers, we chose a carousel design to give the illusion of more partygoers and to emphasize the Bunraku’s feelings of feeling isolated. We also lit this part of the scene differently to show the chasm of difference between the feelings of the shadow and the Bunraku puppet. The shadow puppets were lit with 2 white lights and 1 red – a warm party colour. The lighting for this section could change its distance from the puppets to change their sizes and impact. This was very effective in our story-telling.
In addition to the carousel puppets, we used an individual shadow puppet on a piece of bamboo stick to the main body and some additional sticks to its limbs.