Our giant caretaker of the earth

Meet: Gnomus

The giant caretaker of our planet, Gnomus unearths unknown facts about the challenges humans and plants face wherever he finds himself, engaging family audiences through devised site-responsive shows. This bumbling, gentle giant is kind and friendly, engaging families in themes of extinction and conservation.

Past Performances

Gnomus was first commissioned for the BBC Ten Pieces Prom at the Royal Albert Hall in 2017, a classical and contemporary new music initiative that has engaged four million young people around the UK over four years. Nick Barnes Puppets asked Puppets with Guts to collaborate on developing Gnomus, a response to a Mussorgsky piece of the same name.

During this initial commission process, an educational and engagement project was delivered to young people at Fox Primary School – located a short walk from the Royal Albert Hall. The pupils contributed to initial designs and performance ideas, helping to bring Gnomus to life.

Following on from the BBC commission, in 2018 Gnomus was further developed from a two to four-person puppet for a summer commission at Kew Gardens, delivering 52 continuous days of performances. Gnomus led a characterful and dynamic big puppetry performance to a diverse family audience, exploring the Temperate House collection and highlighting the issues facing plants and fungi. The result was a fun and informative puppet spectacle, through which different narratives were told.

Gnomus has since appeared at a variety of events and festivals including Enchanted Horsham, Imagine Watford, Happy Streets Festival and held short-term residencies in London Bridge and Weston-super-Mare’s Old Town Quarry.

What’s Next for Gnomus?

We are seeking conversations with programmers about Gnomus and how he might engage with local landmarks, historic buildings, heritage sites, botanic gardens, and similar locations as a site-responsive work with a focus on the environment.

Before performances, we consult with local experts about the chosen site and devise a responsive script. The performance outcome can be up to 6 x 15min walking tours of a site during a festival or event. This can engage up to 150 audience members per performance and many more indirectly. We seek to find interesting and unknown ideas about the site’s past and present – how and why it was built, interweaving stories of how the site has been used, and finding a contemporary context for the work.

Each site-responsive commission requires preparation time – consulting, devising & writing, and a few days of rehearsal with puppeteers and the creative team. Ideally, we are seeking longer presentation residencies at historic or conservation sites.

If you are interested in booking Gnomus for your project or event, we’d love to hear from you! Please get in touch

  • “Very interesting and thought-provoking”
  • “Great! An amazing and simple way for kids to learn about the environment and how important it is to us”
  • “Brilliant, really great for the kids and a good message. Also fantastic for adults, fantastic for everyone”
  • “A really good show, educationally for the kids teaching them all about the nature that’s around them, even in an urban environment”

Cast and Creatives

Artistic Director: Ivan Thorley
Designer: Nick Barnes Puppets
Director: Andrew Dawson / Finn Caldwell
Writer: Andrew McCaldon
Costume Designer: Alison Alexander
Cast: Sam Clark, Iskandar Sharazuddin, Katrina Wesseling, Richard Booth, Bertie Harris and Ethan Catchpole
Puppet Makers: Charlie Tymms, Maia Kirkman-Richards, Oli Simonon, Seb Mayer, Jo May and Caroline Bowman
Consultant Producer: Robin Morley
Consultant Director: Claire Rafferty

Find out more about Our People