I Think I Might Be A … Puppeteer!

In January I had an advert pop up on my Facebook feed for a ten week long puppetry course at The Theatre Royal Plymouth hosted by People’s Company. I was very hesitant because I suffer with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Social Anxiety but I also loved the idea of spending ten weeks learning more about puppets. Fearing that I may have made a giant mistake I pressed submit on the form and less than a week later I was walking into my first ever puppetry class.

Me with my tea towel puppet Tegan.

I felt very unsure what to expect and walking in on the first day was nothing short of terrifying but I managed it, the group of 20ish people was much bigger than I anticipated and the ‘getting to know you’ games and warm ups are like something out of my nightmares, however as we did each exercise, as I completed each task asked of me I started to feel more capable and less anxious. I was learning slowly that nothing bad would happen if I joined in and that equally nothing bad would happen if I chose to sit out and observe. Hannah and Danny who ran the ten week course could not of been more accepting of my physical and mental challenges, never pushing me further out of my comfort zone than I was happy to push myself. The rest of my classmates for the most part seemed equally anxious that first day and there was almost an immediate sense that we weren’t in this alone.

My tiny rod puppet Roxy Cleo.

It didn’t get any easier or less scary as the ten weeks went on, sadly GAD just doesn’t work like that and at least for me exposure therapy is not effective. Despite that fear remaining though I found that as the weeks went on I was enjoying the classes more and more, joining in a little more and pushing that fear to one side, acknowledging how I felt but allowing myself to do the things I wanted to do anyway without the fear paralysing me. I felt like I achieved a little success each and every time that I allowed myself to push the fear to one side. From sticks to tea towels, paper people and sticky tape puppets, it has been quite an adventure.

In the ten week long course we learnt about a lot of different puppetry styles and although I feel like I have just barely scrapped the surface of what there is to learn it was a fantastic starting point. I have created three puppets in the ten weeks, two were started there and finished at home and the third was made entirely at home. I want to try and make more, I think I knew going into the course that actually creating the puppets would be my favourite part.

Tiny Clara made from paper tape and fabric scraps.

I really feel like a new world is opening up for me, I have loved puppets for as long as I can remember and now I get a chance to meet people who are as enthusiastic about them as I am and who are actively encouraging people to get more involved in making and performing with puppets too. I have to give a special mention here to Broken Puppet Theatre Company who I have met through the course and who have nudged me in the right direction throughout!

Me and Clara in rehearsals.

Yesterday on World Puppet Day of all days we held the end of course showcase. I was delighted that my bear Barnacle (pictured below) was asked to open the show and bless him he did an amazing job with a little comedy routine. It was magical seeing everyone’s puppets come to life in their hands, each and every one was different and had a personality of their very own. The talent and skills on display was mesmerising from fishermen to devils, bunnies, dragons and everything in between. Working in a group of puppeteers on a short segment of a story I worked with a tiny puppet that I had created and named Clara (pictured above), she got to ride a bear, meet a crone, make a deal with a giant troll queen and save her prince! It was amazing to work alongside the puppeteers that I had got to know over the ten week course.

I am so sad that the course has ended, I can only hope that I get an email someday from The Theatre Royal bringing us all back together, I feel like Hannah and Danny had so much more to teach us and we all felt like we were becoming a little company of our own. Ten weeks just isn’t long enough!!!

Barnacle Bear opened the show!

Happy belated World Puppet Day to you all, there will definitely be more puppets in Moby and Puddle’s future and I hope that you are looking forward to it as much as I am. I don’t want to stop now and I think I might actually want to be a puppeteer when I grow up!

Thank you for reading my blog,

Samantha Webb.

This is me straight after the showcase, on a high from a great performance but sad about saying goodbye.