I am really sad that this has happened but I remain even more determined to maintain what I can from the rest of 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 the only one left and today he has had what amounts to papier mache cosmetic surgery!
He looks pretty good 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.
The poor old Hatter and the caterpillar were two of our few marionettes with rubber heads. I suspect we thought they would last forever. My late mother and I had started conserving our marionettes 20 years ago.
Oh how glad I am we made that effort. At least she lived to see the little film we made. having clambered up into 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.
While I was still keen to do it I decided that ‘Mademoiselle de Paris’ needed her hat cleaned. She looked so good so Jamie and I wound up the 78 record player and filmed her singing her song.
Jamie (middle grandson) was helping with filming. We completed ‘The Little Dutch Mill’ number last week.
This number was probably performed for the last time in the Theatre on Blackpool’s North Pier in the 50s
This is all so time consuming so I am behind with my new poetry book ‘The Puppeteer’s Daughter.’ I am not sure I will have enough life left to become a published poet!
But I am glad that I can still paint faces, make new hands etc. particularly as I was never taught these skills in the first place, they just ‘grew like Topsy’ from observation.
In the end I joined the family business, one of the largest touring puppet companies in this country. Eventually I went into variety at 18 and according to ‘The Stage’ magazine I was ‘the youngest professional puppeteer in Britain. ‘ My sister had already escaped such a fate, was married and had a young son.
To become a puppeteer requires creativity, an ability to mould heads, carve hands, turn limbs on a lathe or find other ways to do them. Also design and make tiny clothes, string puppets and manipulate them. Then there is painting scenery, building sets, writing, learning lines, performing, printing programmes and marketing!
Essential too are good health, a sense of humour and an ability to adapt to new surroundings.
Unfortunately self-doubt and serious depression can also go with the territory
We were rich or poor in later years depending on the sun and the season. Finally after my parents had done hundreds of road safety shows in London schools, my mother just refused to be Nicky the dim clown ever again. My parents had always been a double act with my father’s marionette Charlie, the mainstay of the show – the net result of her decision – Curtains!
Personal relationships can be tricky and there is no company pension to look forward to.
We tried filming a series for the BBC but it did not take off. After that we did the pilot for the Telegoons (a puppet version of the Goon Show) and I did fifteen episodes. But I got married and finally we went our separate ways professionally.
However we all came together, including my sister briefly, to make and work on the film ‘Oh What a Lovely War’ on Brighton’s West Pier.
So here I am in later life trying to keep the show on the road, blogging and continuing to conserve our collection or over 200 marionettes. I hope some of them will find homes in museums or sell for enormous prices so that I can wine and dine in Paris in my old age!
Note – other films about our marionettes on our Puppethouse youtube site including marionette manipulation.