What does it take to be a puppeteer?

DSCF9154The Mad Hatter’s face collapsed in the end. His moving eyes will never blink again. On the one hand I am really sad that this has happened but on the other I remain even more determined to retrieve what I can from our collection of marionettes. We have had more than one Mad Hatter over the years and they have appeared in dozens of seaside towns, in stately homes and schools in London.This is he only one left and today he has had what amounts to  papier mache cosmetic surgery!  He looks pretty good again and now only needs his suit repaired.

Unfortunately  the caterpillar  from ‘Alice in Wonderland’ that once sat on a mushroom smoking, was also made of rubber and has hit the dust and is no more.

DSCF8352The poor old Hatter and the caterpillar were two  of our few marionettes with rubber heads.  I suspected that he would not last forever  15 years ago when my late mother and I were busy renovating some of our characters after 20 years of abandonment. Oh how glad I am we made that effort. At least she lived to see the little film we made. having clamboured endlessly up to the make-shift studio in my tiny loft in London, where I lived at the time.

Now the film is on youtube along with a few others. It lasts 7 minutes Please press the arrow at the centre to view


‘Madamoiselle de Paris’

Anyway while I was still busy with the ‘Alice In Wonderland’ set I decided that ‘Madamoiselle de Paris’ needed her hat cleaned. She looked so good we wound up the 78 record player and filmed her singing her song.


The March Hare


Jamie filming

Jamie (middle grandson) is still  helping with filming from time to time and we completed ‘The Little Dutch Mill’ number last week. Last performed in Blackpool in  the 50sDSCF8363DSCF8349DSCF8220

Consequences of all this work include being a bit behind with my new poetry book but you can’t have everything.

Sometimes I can’t believe  that I can still paint faces, make new hands etc. particularly as I was never actually taught these skills they just ‘grew like Topsy’ from being a puppeteer’s daughter. Later, joining the family business, one of the largest touring puppet companies, and as a self employed entertainer, I found necessity was always the mother of invention.

DSCF8346 DSCF8348What does it take to be a puppeteer? Well – moulding heads, carving hands, making limbs, dressmaking, stringing, manipulating, scenery painting, set building, writing, learning lines, performing, programme printing, marketing! Essential too are good health, a sense of humour and of the ridiculous and an ability to live just about anywhere. Unfortunately self doubt and serious depression can also go with the territory


The White Rabbit’s new hands

You will be rich or poor depending on the sun and the season and you might even get your five minutes of fame! But jealousy in the business happens, personal relationships can often be rocky and there is no company pension to look forward to.  Maybe think again?

Or you could end up like me in later life trying to keep the show on the road, blogging, trying to be a published poet and just hoping some of your marionettes will find homes in museums!

Note –  other films about our marionettes on our Puppethouse youtube site including marionette manipulation.

This entry was posted in Ann's memoir, Brighton - out and about, Cheer yourself up, Marionette, Photography, Puppethouse mayhem, Retiring to Brighton - ups and downs and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to What does it take to be a puppeteer?

  1. pat smale says:

    As usual fascinating reading Ann


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