Puppets with GUTS has been funded through Wandsworth Grants Fund to deliver a new physical theatre and puppet engagement programme called Kids Create. Through working with Enable Arts and Leisure, The Pumphouse Gallery, The Rose Community Centre, The Yvonne Carr Childrens Centre, Carey Gardens, Patmore Estate, St George Primary, Griffin Primary and Heathbrook Primary all in Wandsworth, we have had a fantastic response.
Kati Francis from Beautiful Mess and Ivan Thorley have devised a series of taster workshops to recruit participants and a workshop programme over six weeks, collimating in a mid-term break intensive. The outcome will be a performance devised and investigated by the participants in response to a lone, unidentified roaming puppet tentacle from Citizen Squid. What is it?
The success of our approach so far has been to spark the community’s intrigue and get their imaginations working. The key resource here is a multifaceted puppet that is highly visual, big, surreal and expressive and is breaking down historically low levels of engagement in the Patmore area. We have people coming out of their council flats asking what is it?
THE TASTERS WORKSHOPS
Marina Kelpford from the UFC agency comes to Griffin, St. Georges and Heathbrook School to see if the learners have seen anything suspicious…
The Unidentified Foreign Creatures Agency has heard of sightings of something resembling a giant squid spotted on the Patmore Estate! As she asks the learners for help a rogue pair of tentacles appears! The learners were quick to come up with ideas as to why it was there or what it wanted… Marina needs a team on the ground ASAP to help with her investigations and the learners were all really keen to help her out. Despite the possible dangers and commitments the learners all wanted to help. Marina put them through some UFC Agency training exercises to make sure they knew what to expect – they all showed great strength of body, mind and imagination and were all recruited to be part of the Investigation Team… they even came up with some great ideas for what they might need to help the investigation.
Marina had news form headquarters that the team would meet on Wednesdays at the Rose and figure out what the squid is doing here, what it needs and what they are going to do about it…
Then during half term they will put a presentation together for the agency and families. Everyone seemed really excited about the investigation… and the UFC!
ROSE WORKSHOPS - WEEK 1
APRIL 20TH 2016
We were totally overwhelmed by the 40 students who came down to the after school workshops!
Clearly the UFC investigation Agency was pretty hot at recruiting team members and the People of Patmore have a lot of enthusiastic agency potential!
We worked hard at setting some ground rules, getting to know each others names and figuring out how to work as one big investigation team! It was fun to play keepy uppy and rhythm name games… but keeping a ball passing between 40 was a big challenge!
We really got down to Investigating when we drew BIG maps of the local area to extract the expert knowledge in the room!
Where could the squid be hiding? What might it want from here? What are the dangers and the secrets of the local area…
the team knew so much… and there was a growing consensus that those big towers at the power station would make a pretty good hiding place… or the water tower near the dogs home… hmmm!
ROSE WORKSHOPS - WEEK 2
APRIL 27TH 2016
We must have done well last week, as we had just as many UFC agent recruits through the door again this week! And there was no time for mucking about! During our quick snack and keepy uppy playtime we were also signing our agreed rules for having a fun time together AND decorating our ID badges- and then at 4.10 sharp it was time to get serious with our UFC training!
We got seriously sweaty sharing our best physical moves to warm up for agency activity and then got stuck into some intense team reaction work- we tried moving as one group to create the best collective force to approach the Unidentified Foreign Creature…how could we all move as one without leaving anyone out and creating dynamic body changes?
Then for more detailed investigating, we split into our 6 sub-investigatory teams to consider how the People of Patmore might react to this ‘Squid’-like-thing, using their bodies to create images of peoples physical responses. The general consensus was that anger and fear will permeate the estate…this is definitely something we will have to consider further!
Finally we did some individual work around our agent character and the other people in the area we think are going to be important in the investigation – we drew our agent selves – adding or annotating all our special features and either side of that we drew 2 other People of Patmore…how are they all going to be included in the investigation… we’ll have to find out next week!
ROSE WORKSHOPS - WEEK 3
MAY 4TH 2016
Keepy Uppy and snack time continued to prove a popular intro to our training sessions as we all got into the space and took a moment to chill after a hard day at school! Our ID cards were ready and looking pretty cool as we all became official UFC agency members!
We got into our roles even more as we practiced and shared our best agent moves in circle training and then continued to develop our street agent team movements – splitting into two groups to give each other constructive feedback and adding in team commands to help make our movement more united and dynamic… our street agent teams are shaping up a treat, but we didn’t realise how hard it would be to all move as one! We learned a lot about how to listen with our whole body, how to lead confidently and how to follow… we discovered interesting facts about how we can affect the energy of the group by modelling the energy we want them to have – infectious behaviour tricks!
Dividing into our six sub-investigatory teams, we remembered our angry and fearful tableau from last week and also the characters we drew of our agent selves along with two other characters from the estate. We remembered what they were like and used our hands to represent them – whispering facts about them into each hand- what they look like, what they think, what makes them unique…
Then it was time to step into their shoes – literally! Using the magical power of our imaginations we put on their shoes, clothes and a vital accessories – taking time to really ‘see’ and ‘feel’ the details and then move around the space as that character – the room mystically transformed as a whole host of characters materialised! We found the quintessential pose for that character and then had a chance to share them with the group- we had policemen, teachers, mermaids to name a few and a lot of sassiness as well as some grumpiness! There still seemed to be a general feeling of distrust and hostility towards the squid…
We finished up by taking a moment to consider why this UFC – squid-like-thing might have come to Patmore… we drew pictures or wrote stories about it and discovered some interesting shared ideas- maybe it is hungry, or needs a safe place to give birth, or maybe it just wants a holiday from the deep sea. Some people think it has lost it’s babies, maybe they have been captured here, or they have been killed already and the creature is seeking revenge… maybe it will eat us or kill us as punishment… we better figure out how to communicate with it fast!
ROSE WORKSHOPS - WEEK 4
MAY 11TH 2016
We are getting super slick with our agency moves- getting us ready for the streets – we are learning about how to really listen with our bodies and move as a team! We can all hide in public paces at the drop of a hat, drop to our knees in coordinated army crawls, be lightening ready for the squid with our ninja poise and up the pace to our movements via our elaborate call and response UFC agency coordinated movements. We are getting hot! Watch out Patmore – the agency is coming to town!
It’s hard to know who we have int he room nowadays with all these stealthy agents and then the People of Patmore – characters we have been developing through improvisations and observations of the people in our community – we have got some great poses and one-liners and are developing the reasons and rationale behind our squid responses… why are we all so afraid and angry? We had a recap as to our thoughts on why the squid was here and wondered why people are afraid of things they don’t know anything about…
This week was very special as we began to explore how to animate an object… we worked with Ivan and the brown paper to try to breathe life (literally) into an inert piece of paper! And oh how the room was alive with paper-monsters… although it was challenging for us to grasp, we really got involved working with breath and weight to allow our imaginations to fly!
We can’t wait to continue to put all of our character work to use in creating some awesome puppets over the next two sessions!
ROSE WORKSHOPS - WEEK 5
So the agency training continues! Our 2 street teams are getting a bit competitive with the Jaws and the Rays competing to be the stealthiest team in town! We were helping each other as well as we fed back constructive comments to help the other team up their game! From outside the group we can see the effects of all moving as one, how much focus we can pull with bold, frozen bodies and the energy we need to use with our voices to command the whole group to action! “Quick time!”, “down low”, “Squid alert” all cue different agency responses- “Stealth” is a favourite- which provokes the group to disperse and try to hide themselves in the local environment! We can’t wait for these guys to qualify as UFC agency teams and receive their inaugural pair of agent-shades to give them the extra edge on the street!
A favourite exercise this week was an adaptation of the old favourite grandmother’s footsteps! Playing our People of Patmore characters we approached the squid in different ways…when it turned round, if it saw us move and pointed to us we had to ask it a question in character and the squid had to reply! “Why are you here? what do you want?” was a common theme… and the responses were really insightful… “because I am hungry”, “to find my babies”, “to find clean water”… no reason to be angry or afraid we realised!
This week was also very exciting as we had puppet maker and designer Caroline Bowman come in to help us get started with our puppet making! We drew pictures of our People of Patmore we have been growing physically over the last few weeks, and began to magic them off the page and into a 3d form! We were working with a cardboard base on which to build up a newspaper face to paper mache onto… we were amazed how long it took to begin constructing, and how hard it is to envisage the move form 2d to 3d… we made a good start and hope to really get stuck into this next week!
“I love all the different things we do.”
“I love being an agent- I can’t wait to go out on the streets!”
“I want to meet the squid!” “What did it feel like?” (in response to some of the group having seen the Heathbrook park performance over the weekend).
ROSE WORKSHOPS - WEEK 6
It was the final week of our after school workshops and we are gearing up for the half-term intensive…
Lots of Year 6’s were away on post-SATS theatre trips, and the end of term gave everyone a calmer more chilled out vibe- this fitted perfectly with our mood at the UFC Agency headquarters.
We had some really real chats today about what we were all going to be involved with at the end of half term- and if everyone was going to be able to make the half term sessions- there were questions and uncertainty, even though everyone seemed really excited at the prospect of getting to see the WHOLE squid and sharing their UFC agency characters and puppets with their friends and family…we are still not sure who will come- and certainly if anyone will make the whole week but we are definite that there will be a kick-ass show on Friday!
We got to work swiftly with a high-octane UFC agent warm-up, flexing our ninja moves and spying muscles. We got with the programme, understanding we will need discipline and strength to be able to get out on the streets next week!
We brought the Jaws and the Rays face to face in our UFC street teams- seeing who could move with the most stealth and grace and who was the best at commanding their teams! We all played with passing focus between the 2 groups and seeing who could hold the focus and shift the focus. I think everyone is ready for their inaugural shades next week and stepping out into Patmore… we are ready for the Estate, but is the Estate ready for us!?
We then spent a good chunk of the session making some headway with out People of Patmore puppets. We went through a really broken down step by step process of how to bring the 2-d image of our characters into 3-d existence…it is harder than we first thought! We used newspaper and masking tape to shape the contours of the face- focusing on mouth, nose, eyebrows and hair- after having first made a face shape that was not flat! We realised we had to work quite ‘big’ in order to see the effect of the shaping from any distance- this was detailed and focused work. It took time but the pay off was worth it…our newspaper structures are now ready to paper mache, decorate and come to life for the half term play time!
(when asked what they do nay another learner outside of the project)
“We play fun games, and we talk about the squid and figure out why it’s here and how we’re going to kill it – I mean – IF we’re going to kill it, and we have snacks and we’re making puppets- AND we’re going to do a performance with the squid and it’s going to be awesome!”
“So is the squid actually just a puppet?”
“Are we going to be performing with the real squid?”
“The squid is real isn’t it?”
“I want to keep my name tag forever.”
ROSE WORKSHOPS - HALF-TERM INTENSIVE
Only 5 UFC agents pitched for our ambitious bank holiday start, and what a joy it was to be able to have focused tim with them! It was so lovely to see new friendships blossoming cross-schools and to have the opportunity to find out where everyones family is from and what people enjoy doing in their spare time. We have such an exotic bunch- form Barbados & Jamaica to Algeria, Nigeria and Portugal!
We made some amazing headway with our puppets- getting them form their newspaper and masking tape rough shaping, covered in paper mache- we explored which combination of cream and brown tissue paper created the right skin tone for our puppet and got them solid on their sticks. It was nice to chat about music and heritage whilst we slowly but up our character faces.
Then we went out on our first excursion- on a round about route to the centre of Carey Gardens where we will perform on Friday. We practiced our UFC team moves to get there and had a whale of a time with our ‘stealth’ positions, creeping round corners and busting our ninja ‘squid alert’ poses. It was hard work to stick together and we are still getting the transitions as smooth and chat free as we can, but when we stayed focused they were great!
When we hit Carey Gardens there was no stopping our imaginations running wild with where and what we could perform. We definitely want baby squid and we found a bush for the puppets to perform behind and a natural stage and microphone! We tried shoaling around the space, and singing and dancing.
Then we shoaled back to the Rose centre and thought about the piece. Salma and Tamia reminded people about what they had seen at Heathbrook and we talked about weaving our story ideas into the professional piece- bringing the elements together.
We wrote out the basic structure and added in our personal ‘features’. We ended with trying out some squid dance moves for our finale celebration! Wow what a day….lets see what tomorrow brings!
“can we have a page of features which will be everything we want to put into the show?”
“we can go around all of the estates telling everyone they have to come and see the show”
“this can be the stage for our puppets and they can talk and then the squid can come up behind them!”
“ we need to make some baby squids so we can have the squid find them”
The numbers are growing, with 12 agents with us today. This seemed like a really great number to get loads of creativity and focus in the room! We began with a recap of what was going to happen and thinking about how much we have to do to get our presentation/show ready for Friday. Everyone has 101 questions about the squid puppet and when it is coming and who is going to be manipulating it and what we can do with it… it is VERY exciting!
We had some focused circle time with keepy uppy as we began to think about being team players, focusing and allowing the ball to affect us without us running away or too it- remaining aware and ready for action! This prepared us to really zoom into our bodies and find some inspired squid moves for our dance- we put yesterday and todays dance moves together to make an awesome squid dance for the finale!
We then recapped our UFC team moves in our 2 teams as there were enough to split up…it was a wet and windy day so sadly we couldn’t take it our on the streets again…but we enjoyed the focus of the room and passing the buck between teams.
Then it was time to finish off our beautiful People of Patmore puppets- we were really impressed with how much they came alive when we put eyes on them- we coloured their lips and decorated them a little- and then they were ready for action!
After a short break and more discussion of how we were going to put a show together, we set up a ‘stage’ for the puppets and let them do their magic- we improvised scenes of the puppets reaction to the squid and found some wonderful physicality and voices! We easily created little scenes for the show- who knew how much magic was in a puppet!
We thought about how the puppets could go and talk to the audience a little…and practiced in partners talking to each other- we began to think about how we could perform through the puppet as opposed to competing with it- learning about the different skills of puppeteer and actor! We worked in a really detailed and focused way with looking through the puppets eyes and not our own.
Finally we began to transfer some of the games we were doing as people to the puppets with Grandmother’s footsteps…how do we make a puppet creep? With our body and with our puppet…how do we give the focus to the puppet? How can the game become a unit of performance? How can we consider the audience? So many big questions and considerations…an intense focus filled the room as people began to realise HOW much work it takes to put on a performance! And we’re only half way through the action! And the puppeteers arrive tomorrow! Ahhhhh! The reality of show business sinks in! We can’t wait for tomorrow!
Today was the day everything got a lot more real! We had the professional puppeteers come in! Yes- we were sharing the space with some of the manipulators behind Warhorse, Harry Potter and Star Wars! People who work at top London Theatres from The Soho to Polka children’s theatre.
We all began with a mass game of keepy uppy and introductions, and soon forgot our coyness as we played zombie-name games, terrifying each other with our scary faces!
We then went for a whole talk through the mega-plan of what was going to happen in the show- what in the industry we call as ‘stagger-through’ with us marking the outside space, inside the Rose. We practised a few cues and made sure we all knew where we were meant to be and slotted together the professional show with the pieces of performance the participants have been working on over the last weeks. The professionals were super impressed with our UFC agency shoaling and our people of pat more puppets and we enjoyed seeing how the puppeteers practiced their tentacle puppetry without the big puppets!
It was a long 2 hour ‘stagger-through’ and we realised what it means to be involved with a professional production! Not for the work-shy! We then went back to Carey Gardens to see how it would all fit in the space…
we realised the bush we wanted to use for puppetry was too far away form the main playing space, and also what big voices we would have to use in the space to heard…we also realised that outdoor performance is about mucking in and staying focused! We can’t be worrying about dog poo and trainers when there’s a show to perform! It’s really hard to stay focused in the wet and wind and when we are tired and hungry…but hard work pays off and we managed to get through to the end of the piece- simply doing a cue to cue so we are in a good position to get down to the details of rehearsing with the big puppets tomorrow…exciting times!
The day before the show and it’s crunch time! Wether is not really on our side with the wind and the cold- but we are determined to make a big splash with our Patmore Squid extravaganza!
Today we made it outside earlier after an energising and focusing warm up with he whole cast- that’s right we are part of a big professional cast with an important show tomorrow and we were making sure we were fully prepared for it all! We played “ninja” a great game to get our wits about us for our play- taught to us by a cast member, then we taught all of the professionals our Squid dance so that they could join us in the finale of the show.
Then Jamie- who is one of the puppeteers who worked on Warhorse gave us all a little puppeteer warm up! Yeah- we worked with our puppets to put the emotions and actions through them, making sure we were focusing on them and looking through their eyes and making clear actions with their direction and rhythm. We noticed how easy it was to see when people weren’t thinking about their puppets! All of our characters became brighter and bolder as we brought the focus to them.
We then set out on our UFC agent route we will take tomorrow for the show- we weave through he Savona, Patmore and Carey Gardens Estates, in role as our agents, moving as a team with our in sync movements and call and response- playing stealth and squid alert on the street! It took A LOT of energy and time to go in this formation to the space and what is usually a 10 minute walk became a half hour performance! We realised we would have to find a more economical way to move in sections as we gather a crowd for our show!
When we arrived at the performance space we started to learn what putting on a show is really all about! The sound had to be fixed, the generator wouldn’t start, all the puppets had to be prepared…it takes much more work that we think!
We also realised that staying focused and alert when there are so many things to distract you- especially when working outside- is very hard! And we finally got to see the whole squid! All the ideas we’ve been having about it and things we’ve been thinking! Here it was…and it definitely wasn’t something to be afraid or angry about! We had so many questions for the puppeteers about how the puppet worked and what they did and we had a lot of fun playing around with the tentacles – how could we focus on where we were meant to standing with a giant squid in the space!!!
And then the run through began! With everything! Puppets, music, more puppets!, actors…and Kati and Pip and Ivan running around making sure everyone was doing the right thing at the right time! It’s hard to think parents and friends will all be coming tomorrow to see the show…
We felt very very tired, excited and pleased with ourselves at the end of the day- tomorrow it will all come together!
Finally after all the hard work, we got our chance to share what we had done with our friends and family! We led our guests as our UFC agency team through the streets on route to the performance space, along with our tentacle friends, and then presented our unique Patmore Squid performance. We were so proud of ourselves and our puppets as we performed alongside the professional team and our families could see all the hard work we put in.
We really enjoyed being on stage with the squid and dancing our Squid dance for everyone! It was great to feel the power of working altogether and having individual moments to shine! We were so tired afterwards! we didn’t realise being a secret agent AND a puppeteer/performer was such hard work! We were really pleased to take our puppets home and our bubbles as a reminder of our experience.
Everyone said they found it moving and entertaining, and we all ant to come back next week! What’s next!?
Puppets with GUTS has been funded by Wandsworth Council’s Grant Fund to deliver a new physical theatre and puppet engagement programme called Kids Create. Through working with Enable Leisure and Culture’s Arts Team, The Pump House Gallery, The Rose Community Centre, The Yvonne Carr Children’s Centre, Carey Gardens, Patmore Estate, St George Primary, Griffin Primary and Heathbrook Primary all in Wandsworth, we have had a fantastic response.
Puppets with GUTS is part of Wandsworth Fringe Festival which is funded by Wandsworth Council and delivered by Enable Leisure and Culture on behalf of Wandsworth Council.