Normally, our design studios are bustling with creativity before our Design for Performance students put on their summer puppetry outdoor show to end the summer term, but this year was different…
“Lockdown added an extra twist as our teams worked remotely from home,” said Senior Lecturer in Design for Performance Lucy Hall.
“Nearly all the materials used were recycled out of students’ rubbish bins so it was up to them to transform everyday objects and waste materials into performance-ready puppets.”
The students were split into six teams to produce mammals, birds, amphibians, arthropods, fish and reptiles.
Over the ten weeks of the project, initial sketches would become maquettes before evolving to final designs.
The first half of the project mapped-out each designers’ vision through storyboarding:
Although the new way of working was daunting at first, College teaching and training prepared the teams with the know-how to work remotely, said designer Céleste Langrée:
“My experience at RWCMD so far has given me faith in the process. If I had to do this project a year ago I’d think, ‘There’s no way I can do this at all.'”
With storyboards completed, the final five weeks kicked off experimenting with maquettes before fleshing out final designs:
Designer Oscar Morris changed his usual creative approach at this point:
“When designing puppets the ‘proper way’ you can get bogged down with the mechanics of things and what they’re ‘supposed’ to do. In this project you had the freedom to create puppets from any materials. It was like, ‘here’s a mug – bring it to life’.
“I had to adapt by doing clever things with unusual materials. All the puppets in our team needed to look like they’re from the same world. Collaboration was the name of the game and we stuck to that.”
Perhaps the biggest trade of all was switching the stage for the camera. Our students learned got to grips with new skills in filming and editing, as Constance Tavares Silva discovered:
With the puppetry shows normally taking place in a theatre setting, filming presented our designers with opportunities they wouldn’t normally have:
“Film means you have so much more control on the viewers’ gaze. You can make anything any size,” said second-year Ruby Brown.
“Last year we had to produce life-sized puppets so audiences of 70 could see them, but as it’s on film this time, you can play around with scale.”
Here Ruby toys with that scale as her film develops:
After 10 weeks of trial, error, sketching, Zoom meetings, building and filming, each group edited their video together to produce six fantastical films.
Feast your eyes on some of the final designs and be dazzled as the puppets come to life online.
Feature image: Lucy Ruff