Farewell to our Puppetry Trainees

Over the last year, we have had four Puppetry Trainees here with us at Little Angel Theatre, who have been learning about puppetry and performance through facilitating workshops and devising and performing in shows. Sadly, it’s time to say goodbye, but before they go, we wanted to celebrate all that they’ve achieved in the past year and wish them luck for their future plans. We caught up with Shaun, Deanna, Esther and Palesa about the things they’ve learned, and what’s next for them.

How has your view of puppetry changed in the last year?

Shaun: I’ve been really interested in puppetry and I’ve done quite a lot from a young age, so I’ve really just come to appreciate it even more. I’ve made puppets for school, my local theatre group and at home, so when I heard about the traineeship opportunity at Little Angel Theatre, it was kind of ideal. This is exactly what I wanted to do, it was a no-brainer really.

Deanna: Puppetry is much more complex than I originally realised and is a very useful tool for many things. Puppetry makes you question everything. It can help you break situations down into steps, it can provoke emotions, and it can teach both children and adults many skills. It is a true skill, one that takes time and patience, but is a beautiful art form that I now appreciate much more and have a new-found respect for.

Esther: When I started the traineeship I had very little experience of puppetry so I’ve learnt a lot about what puppetry is capable of doing in performance, and the effect it can have on an audience. It’s something I’m definitely interested in carrying on in some way in future.

Palesa: My love for marionettes especially has expanded. I didn’t respect them in the way that I do now, because when I think about how few shows there are with marionettes in, I realise how rare a skill it is. It’s really sought after. The style of puppetry that I’ve come to like most is really refined and beautiful.

What has been your favourite show that you’ve worked on during your time at LAT?

Shaun: I think it would be Santa’s Little Workshop which involved workshop facilitation, performing, stage management and front of house roles. I introduced a character called Chris Mouse into the space to make it a little bit more entertaining. It was really nice when the kids were leaving as they would often come back into the waiting room to look for the mouse character.

Deanna: Our self-initiated project, an adaptation of the children’s book Little Bell and the Moon by Giles Paley-Phillips. This was a chance for me to put everything I had learnt on this traineeship together with my own ideas and produce a performance from scratch that I was very proud of. I was able to work with puppetry professionals and get their advice, and also spend time making the set and puppets and devising and performing the work itself. It was a wonderful opportunity and I hope to revisit this work at some point in the future.

Esther: Probably Junk, although I loved working on Deanna’s and my R&D of Little Bell and The Moon.

Palesa: My favourite show was the Ramayana, because normally I find it easier to be in the background doing the puppeteering but for this I was at the front narrating. I had to wear a lovely pink headscarf and I looked very glamorous! We were given a story and had to work our script and scenes around that. We were left to our own devices for this one and I really felt like my confidence grew whilst working on it.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone interested in performing and puppeteering, what would it be?

Shaun: Just being in a theatre or workshop environment is great, as well as being able to network and meet some of the most respected people in the industry.

Deanna: Start today! Go and see puppet shows of all kinds and figure out what you like and equally what you don’t like and ask yourself why. Then practise, practise, practise…

Esther: Try lots of different forms of puppetry to find out what you like best – don’t necessarily stick to the first form you experience but branch out and try others as well. Try and go to as many different courses and teachers as you can.

Palesa: Don’t be too hard on yourself if someone gives you constructive criticism. See it as a learning process. Take inspiration from other people whose work you like. Remember that everyone has different skills – you might be good at puppet carving, or being empathetic in the workplace. Remember that you’re a team, and all those things make up a team. Be open to learning so that you have the space to improve.

What’s next for you?

Shaun: I’d like to work as a freelance puppeteer. I’ve not got any firm plans to go to university or do further education, so I’d like to see if I can get freelance work and see if that’s sustainable.

Deanna: I’m hoping to complete my final year of my degree in Theatre and Performance at Guildford School of Acting, University of Surrey. I hope to incorporate everything I learnt at Little Angel Theatre into my degree by making my own children’s theatre company and writing about puppetry for children and the ways in which it can be used to explore difficult issues and concepts.

Esther: I’m off to drama school – Rose Bruford – to study European Theatre Arts (which includes puppetry!).

Palesa: I want to become an occupational therapist, because I’ve learnt so much about working with children in this role and that’s when I really feel like I’m in my element. I’ve loved that part of this past year. I’m going to do an access course in health and human sciences which leads to any career in biology, healthcare or psychology. I’m really excited. You can never learn too much.

It sounds like our four Puppetry Trainees have had a fantastic year, and have some really exciting plans ahead! From us all at Little Angel Theatre, we wish Shaun, Deanna, Esther and Palesa the very best of luck. Stay in touch!

To find out how you can get involved with the work we do at Little Angel Theatre, visit our jobs and volunteering page here. If you’re interested in learning more about being a puppeteer, take a look at all of the creative learning courses we have here.