Devising puppetry with Brunskill and Grimes

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As a puppeteer I am always looking for ways to develop my skills further. Going to workshops with various companies gives me the opportunity to solidify my technique while experiencing different ways of creating work. I recently had the pleasure of taking part in a Devising for Puppets workshop run by awesome puppetry duo Brunskill and Grimes, and came away reinvigorated and itching to work with the guys again.

Andy Brunskill and Jimmy Grimes create wonderful and often unusual stories with beautiful, original puppet characters. The opportunity to learn from these guys was worth the drive up to London from Cornwall, and they turned out to be damn good teachers as well.

The workshop took place in a building aptly named The Workshop, a temporary community and events space in Lambeth. Home to the London Fire Brigade pop-up museum along with several creative companies and artists, it’s just a short walk from Vauxhall station.

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During the one-day workshop we prepared our bodies for the work, looked at some puppetry technique and devised short scenes in groups. The warm-up and technique work was a great chance for me to check in with my own practice, reminding myself to keep my knees soft and start and end the movement with the puppet, not me. I became more aware of how my own body moves when I’m working with puppets, walking through the whole foot rather than my tendency to tread just on the balls of my feet when trying to move quickly and lightly. I feel I’d become a bit sloppy in my physical discipline, and it was good to work on not distracting from the puppet’s movement with my own.

All of my puppetry work so far has been with human form puppets, so when I saw that we’d get to play with four-legged creatures in the workshop I was excited to try out the different kinds of movement. As with two-legged puppets, each position (the ‘head’, ‘heart’ and ‘hind’, to use War Horse terms) presented us with its own movement vocabulary and challenges, and I loved working on the technicality of the movement of the different body parts.

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We split the 12 of us into two groups of six and devised short scenes, which Andy and Jimmy directed a little and they made suggestions for us to develop the puppet character’s sub-plot. When we were working on the movement of the puppets in threes (three people per puppet), the guys were watching carefully and chipping in with observations and advice. I really felt they were trying to help us improve our technique with the puppets, and I could tell that they were enjoying teaching us, which you don’t always feel in a workshop!

It was a brilliant day of play, creativity and fun. I had a great time meeting and getting to work with all the other actors, puppeteers, writers, directors and creatives. Although I love living in Cornwall, I do miss my clan! If you’re interested in exploring puppetry or want to develop your skills further I highly recommend doing a workshop with Brunskill and Grimes. In fact, I’ve just booked on to their two-day making workshop next February, and I can’t wait!

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Thanks to Brunskill and Grimes for the pics

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London: a love-hate relationship

London. Some love it, some hate it. I’m currently feeling a bit of both.

Having moved to Putney a few months ago, I am still feeling my way around this city. When I first arrived I hated the place – the grey, the swarms of people, the lack of space, lack of air. Bit by bit, the colour has gradually been working its way in, and I now have a love-hate relationship with my new home.

The first thing that struck me when I moved here was the lack of sky. I miss walking along the beach in Portsmouth, sea blending into sky, stretching overhead in a vast sheet of blue. Because of this it feels like there’s no air. Some days I feel so suffocated I want to run and run until I find a green field and can breathe again.

There’s a particular pace to London life, and joining the millions of people pouring out of trains and onto pavements and in and out of the underground, I feel like a worker ant in a vast colony, a tiny dot amongst the masses. This churning and rippling, and everyone having something to do and somewhere to go, makes the city feel like a great machine. There’s a clunkiness to it but also a rhythmic power – a great steam engine rather than a high-speed train.

Gradually splashes of colour splattered here and there on my view. A stroll by the river, a wander round the Natural History Museum, an afternoon spent sitting in the National Theatre typing a blog post with a large slice of cake for company. I can get on a train from Putney and be at the South Bank within half an hour. That’s pretty cool.

I’ve come to realise that as much as I often want to escape from London, I also find it fascinating. There’s a strange pull to the chaos, like a moth to a deadly flame. I miss the space, I miss the sea, I miss the forest, but perhaps I can one day learn to love this place too.