Monster Soup

An illuminated big puppet lantern parade


Illuminating the microscopic world of the rivers, waterways and oceans through objects, music and big puppets.

The first Monster Soup illuminated big puppet parade was a participatory outdoor theatre event that examined the microscopic world of the River Thames in Nine Elms- Wandsworth. Local pupils from St George’s Primary and Griffin Primary schools participated in a workshop series at the Rose Community Centre (SW8 4DL). Young people designed and created their very own river monster lanterns, which they paraded alongside a giant toothy tadpole puppet called Arthur created by Puppets with GUTS. Aimed at families- the #monstersoup began at the ROSE Community Centre, paraded around Patmore, Carey Gardens and Savona Estates, then down Nine Elms Lane to the new Riverlight Estate on the Thames.

Throughout the project the young people investigated the microscopic world of the Thames, a world unseen and a place that we all need to care for. The project encouraged local residents to explore newly regenerated public spaces and places unknown to them in their local area. Moving forward- we aim to use this concept to create further illuminated big puppets, lanterns, kites, kinetic objects and more based on the microscopic world. Using recycled materials found in waterways to create these monsters will be key to our engagement approaches.

The initial inspiration for the project began with a satirical Victorian image called Monster Soup, which highlighted the pollution in London’s drinking water. Puppets with GUTS artistic director, Ivan Thorley, was interested in “highlighting the ongoing issue London still has with its air and water pollution” in an engaging and positive way. 

Creative Team- Puppets with GUTS:

Artistic Director, Producer, Original Concept: Ivan Thorley

Designer: Pip Herbst

Workshop Facilitators: Vicky Hancock, Ivan Thorley and Charlotte Quartermaine

Puppet Makers: Ivan Thorley, Pip Herbst, Charlotte Quartermaine, Caroline Bowman, Alison Alexander.

Pumphouse Gallery- Participation Manager: Greer MacKeogh


To find out more- contact Ivan Thorley:

#monstersoup @puppetswithguts

Monster Soup Video clip-

Supported by

Kids Create Club is supported by Enable Arts on behalf on Wandsworth Council and is a partnership between Pump House Gallery, Puppets with GUTS and the ROSE Community Centre with thanks to St George’s Primary, Griffin Primary, Yvonne Carr Centre and Carey Gardens Estate Coop.

Commissioned and managed by Pump House Gallery, part of the OutHouse programme, delivering off-site activities and workshops across the borough of Wandsworth. Funded by Pump House Gallery, Wandsworth Council and Battersea Power Station Foundation.


Booking Information

Technical Information:

  • Minimum arena ~20m x 15m accessible public space;
  • Set-up time: 2 hours. Take-down time: 1 hour;
  • Dressing Room for 3 x people with tables, chairs,
    toilets, drinking water;
  • Storage Required 2m x 4m with double doors and
    puppet set-up area;
  • Van for puppet transportation plus driver from London;
  • 3 x cast travel by van, train or plane from London.

Show Information:

  • Fee- Roving Puppet £600 per day + transport, substance and accommodation expenses;
  • Fee- Workshops and Lantern Parade- 2 days workshops and 1 day parade £4900 + materials, workshop and event support / planning / management / recruitment, venue, transport, substance and accommodation expenses.
  • 3 to 4 person roving touring group;
  • Performance Styles: Puppetry, Roving, Interactive, Physical Theatre, Light, Illumination, Spectacle, Visual Theatre, Music, Relational, Non-verbal, Improvised;
  • Length: 20min roving big tadpole puppet with musician. 60mins lantern parade through a local area
  • Opportunity for value added workshops and bespoke Community Engagement Programme and parade;
  • Scale: Small to Medium Scale Outdoor Performance within minimum arena ~20m x 15m accessible public space;
  • Date Created: 2017 and available for touring;
  • Audience Capacity: 100-2000 with low level audience interaction;
  • Audience Type: Families, Children, Young People;
  • Themes: Environment, Displacement, Empathy.



Previous Performances

ENGAGEMENT OVERVIEW BLOG- WEEKLY WORKSHOPS- KIDS CREATE CLUB at the ROSE Community Centre, Wandsworth- Jan to March 2017

Week 1

Today during check in time, the children had a number of activities to occupy them. Some children opted to decorate an outline drawing of Arthur the giant River Monster, while others danced and did gymnastics. The PA was set up in the corner, and the music helped to focus the dancing. There was also a Mood Tree that we asked the children to complete – this helps us get an overview of the mood of the group prior to the session starting. 

The training warm up consisted of a rhythm exercise to get everyone moving together – the second version was more complicated, as the children needed to work out the pattern for themselves. They did this very quickly, and we all managed to move and make rhythm together successfully.

There was a circle game with acting tasks – this gave the children a chance to start stretching their bodies and imaginations, without being too exposed in front of their peers, and later this fed into the shoaling exercise.

The shoaling exercise consisted of the whole group moving together to various points in the room, and returning ‘home’. There were a few stragglers, and a few who ran on ahead at points, but on the whole the group were able to move together as a collective body. We then divided into three groups, with a facilitator for each group. The children had to devise a journey between the points, with an ‘event’ happening at each pathway point. The children very much led the exercise, giving their ideas for events, and there were some really effective ideas. After watching each group perform their journey, the children picked their favourite events, and we staged the new journey as whole group – this worked well, and we had some music to accompany it. 

After a break Ivan explained the next creative task, which was to look at actual water microbes and start designing their own fictional river monster. We asked the children to give their monster a mini-character profile, and then most of the children presented their monsters to the group one at a time.

Quotes from the River Monsters Scientific Investigation Team

“That’s what a genius looks like!”

“The dead bodies in the thames make the water move like that, they make the waves.”

“I’ve collected some LURGIES!”

“We’re going outside!!!”

“Are we going to jump in the river?”


“There’s monsters in the river”

“I couldn’t see the monsters last week, they were hiding”

“My monsters are more clever”

“Let’s be penguins”

Week 2

The immersive atmosphere continued with pictures of microbes on the walls. The mood tree was a test tube with microbe shapes. There was a balloon activity and music playing that was more in line with the project. Ivan gave a re-cap on the rules. There was a reminder of Monster Soup and having a “Eureka” moment and the signals for a circle and silence. The first task for the children was to keep a plastic bag in the air by just using their breath. We then split off into pairs with the children taking it in turns to be either the plastic bag or the wind. The children embodied the elastic band exercise – a different kind of movement to the plastic bag. We tried the same exercise in two larger groups, and Vicky ‘shoaled’ the group around by blowing on them to move them around the space as a group. We divided into two smaller groups, and both groups worked on a journey using the two movement qualities to move between points in the space. There was a break and afterwards Batty the microbe lantern was re-introduced, and the frame of Arthur’s head (the giant tadpole) was revealed. We experimented with small led lights, led wire and Batty was lit up, and the children got their first taste of what the procession could look like when it’s all finished.

Quotes from the River Monsters Science Investigation Team

“I didn’t like it, I loved it!”

“Today scored a thousand out of a hundred”

“10 out of 10”

“It was amazing”

“I loved the lights”

“It’s cool”


“Arthur’s massive”

“I’ve made some glowing eyes”

“I want to be a sea snake”

“I want to make one of these”

“Arthur’s going to eat me!”

Week 3

In today’s session we started by playing a rhythm game together, and after a re-cap on the rules, the children began making decisions on their own river monster. Calling out statement such as ‘My river monster is all one colour’ and then either swarming to the Agree or Disagree side of the room. The children contributed with some of their own statements. With some music the children started to work on embodying their monsters, and exploring how they move around the space. They wrote down some statements or did some drawings based on the decisions they had made. We added in questions like how does your microbe eat and how does it poo? We had a “range” of responses.

Ivan showed the lantern bases the microbes would be made from and the children selected the shape(s) they wanted to work with. More detailed microbe drawings. At the end of the session we brought the lights out, and had another try at swarming in the darkness.

Quotes from the River Monsters Science Investigation Team




“My monster has two heads and three poo holes”

“My monster does rainbow poo”

“What does swarm mean?”

“What is translucent? Is translucent different to transparent?”

“My monster is flexible and transformable”

“My monster eats it’s poo”

“My monster only pees”

“Your monster must be constipated then”

Week 4

Today’s session was focused on learning a choreographed dance routine for a section of the procession, and walking the route around the estate. Children who were not in the session last week were able to catch up with the selection and painting of their lantern microbes.

Quotes from the River Monsters Science Investigation Team

“Hot wings”

“I didn’t put this blue dot here, but I like it”

“It’s says here that I should go at the front”

“We are dancing like Michael Jackson”

“Hooray, the biscuits are back!”

“That’s where I live”

“Can we do the show on Thursday so I don’t have to go to choir practise?”

“My mum protects me”

“I’ve put two microbes in the test tube today”

“You’ve finally spelled my name right!”

“I’ve been hopping all day”

Week 5

Vicky had made some mock-up lantern puppets for the children to practise with to walk the parade route. However, the whole session was taken up with finishing everyone’s lantern microbes – these are now done. Phew!

Quotes from the River Monsters Science Investigation Team

“I’ve made a sea bee”

“I want the tentacles to be fluffy”

“The lanterns are going to gang up on Ivan”

“When is Arthur coming to play?”

“I’m making two eyes and a mouth”

“That’s where the poo comes out”

Week 6

We began with a re-cap on the rules, and then started to piece together the procession in the studio. Focus was poor so we moved to outside and walked the actual stop off points in the procession. This took up all of the session and we rehearsed with the mock up lantern puppets, as the real ones were in storage, which was probably a good thing as the rehearsal puppets very damaged by the end of the session.

Quotes from the River Monsters Science Investigation Team

“I liked it when Arthur chased me”

“I like it when Charlotte gave Semerah a piggy back”

“Bob delicately, we should all be bobbing along”

“Mine’s drooping”

“I know that tadpole isn’t real”

“Where’s Arthur? He’s gone to bed now.”

“Can I dip my puppet in the water?”

“Where has the sea gone?”

“Are you called Marina because you work with marine life?”

“Can I wear your glasses?”


Once the children arrived the session was very pleasant. There was a quick recap on the events of the evening with Ivan, then Vicky ran a physical warm up. Our children participated very well alongside other families who came to join the parade. There was a pre parade walk around the estates before 6pm with Arthur and the lantern puppets. This was a good chance to take photos and for the children to get used to handling their microbe lantern puppets. The walk was refreshing, and after some pizza, members of the public began to arrive at the ROSE at 6pm. We gave some spare lanterns to other children and families, so they could walk with us for the procession! Lots of excitement. Arthur got in position at the back of the ROSE, and Vicky lead the microbes around the front of the building and the parade began. A crowd had gathering in the ROSE courtyard- including the head of Wandsworth Council. The performance began and it was spectacular! A great way to finish to the Monster Soup project! Well done all.

Quotes from the River Monsters Science Investigation Team

“I want to do this when I’m older”

“I’m sitting next to Charlotte”

“Are you a scientist? When I grow up that’s what I want to be”

“Can I have a go on Arthur’s tail?”

“What is the big fish? He was at my school earlier”

“More bubbles, more bubbles”

“We’re just bobbing here”

“Microbes, follow me, we don’t know if he’s dangerous”