Tom Thumb ends Spring UK tour with a truimphant run at Little Angel Theatre

Following research and development in 2015, DNA created Tom Thumb in January 2016 and for six months has been touring the UK to variious venues, festivals and events


Written and designed by Adam Bennett from an ancient Celtic folk tale, with music from Sian Phillips drawn from folk tradition, Tom Thumb uses song, puppetry, storytelling, physical theatre and comedy to tell the story of a boy created by Merlin the magician and Titania queen of the Faerie folk. His birth, childhood and adventures that lead to meeting King Arthur and being sent on a quest to defeat a dragon.


Other artists involved in the creation of this performance include Steve Tiplady (direction), Liz Lempen (puppet making) and Georgina Solo (props and set). Without the generous support of Horse and Bamboo theatre, this performance would not have been possible to create.


Tour venues included The Lowry, Artsdepot, Norwich Puppet Theatre, Blackpool Grand, The New Wolsey, Stantonbury Campus Theatre, Warwick Arts Centre, Glastonbury Festival and Little Angel Theatre.

To Thumb is touring again in Spring 2017 and is currently taking bookings.

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Bambert’s Book of Lost Stories

Bamberts Book Of lost stories pic
Presented by Barking Gecko Theatre Company, Perth, Western Australia
Cast – Nick Maclaine, Amanda McGregor, Jo Morris, Igor Sas, Tim Watts
Barking Gekko invite you to explore a world of stories, with Bambert – a small puppet man who loves to write, accompanied in his attic by the characters he has created in his tales. He wishes to share his stories and sets his stories free out into the world to find homes, with a final story to write itself. Barking Gecko have adapted Reinhardt Jung’s original German story, to premier this lovely tale about the joy of story writing and transform it into a visual feast with an awesome set, great lighting, sound and storytelling.
Bambert is a beautifully made small table top style puppet, made by Hamish Fletcher and well manipulated by lead puppeteer Tim Watts, who stays in his attic space for most of the show, with ensemble support from the acting company to accentuate his actions and emotions. The puppet has precise detail in the movement and expression of an elderly man who is tired and frustrated by life.

Bambert relates to the moon, finding the stories he writes. His quest is to make his stories become real by sharing them with the world, sent by balloons in a nice theatrical surprise. Only at the end of the show does Bambert move to other areas of the staging, above and below, symbolically finding freedom in the overall story of the little puppet man’s life.
There is a very nostalgic feel to the show, with the grocer supplying exotic produce from around the world in his shop, and a richly, layered soundtrack to compliment. With inventive sound effects to create the atmosphere of London, or an elephant back stage!
Lovely humour for children and their parents abounds, with quick fire comedic timing and visual jokes. The stories fill the room with imaginative visual storytelling, taking us around Europe with clever use of the staging, beautifully made with great detail by Onstage Arts set construction, to Jonathon Oxlade’s set design.
Matt Edgerton has brought together a talented team to tell Bambert’s stories, some tales darkly emotional from war torn Syria, the Black Angels in Poland or prison cells of Russia. Playing a variety of different characters for each story, the company bring the stories of Bambert to life in a unique and captivating production. This is a show where there is plenty of richness in the language and visual storytelling for adults, as well as for older children.
After the show, there is an enchanting surprise activity to send your wishes to the skies with innovative technology expanding children’s imaginations. There are lovely ideas from the creatives in the production to extend children’s theatre journeys. Within the show programme are beautiful creative ideas to try out at home, a real treasure trove of creativity for extended learning.

Catch the last days of the show at the Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre of WA, Perth Cultural Centre
until 23 April 2016

Review by Rachel Riggs

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Little BoBo – The Kaleidoscope Ensemble

Rachel writes from Western Australia with a review for UNIMA Australia

Little BoBo
By the Kaleidoscope Ensemble
PERFORMERS: Gillian Catlow – violins; Joanne Foley – puppeteer; Charles Hoernemann – guitars; Ron Reeves – winds/percussion
The Kaleidoscope Ensemble invites you on a musical journey into the jungle where Bobo, the young orang-utan, finds a violin and eventually creates an orchestra. Gillian Catlow and Charles Hoernemann have taken this lovely tale about the joy of music and transformed it into a sing along mini musical for younger children, with puppetry at its heart.
Little Bobo, the young orang-utan is a performing puppet who actually plays the violin during the show! Expertly manipulated by puppeteer Joanne Foley, sometimes assisted by the musicians, the puppet constantly keeps the audiences interest and steals many scenes, with precise detail in the movement and expression of a young orang-utan clearly displayed. From the expressions on many children’s faces, meeting Little Bobo the puppet afterwards, made their experience even more memorable.
The Kaleidoscope Ensemble has undergone many changes since they formed in 2003, but what has remained constant is the passion and enthusiasm for discovering and sharing stories with music. ‘Playing music and making a story, telling a story with your music, that’s what it’s all about’ said Gillian Catlow, who had the original idea of turning the picture book into a musical stage show, and secured the rights to translate it from the original German to publish the book in Australia in 2010.
Catlow, Hoernemann and Reeves are an award winning and talented musical team, with songs as upbeat and melodic for adults, as well as for young children. The lyrics are catchy, and children not only have chance to participate in the performance, being invited onstage to play in the band but also after the show ends. The Kaleidoscope Ensemble are in no hurry to finish the show, and children are delightfully encouraged to ‘have a go’ and try out different instruments.
Playing a variety of exotic wind instruments (tarogato, furulya, sarunai), percussion, guitar, ukulele and of course violin, the musicians and puppeteer bring the story of Little Bobo to life in a unique and captivating production. With inventive sound effects to create the atmosphere of the jungle, and lovely humour for children and their parents, Little BoBo is an ideal introduction to music and theatre for young children.
For aspiring young musicians, sheet music from the show and a music cd of the Little BoBo song, are available to buy afterwards, to extend the learning experience back at home. Packed with fun, interaction, surprise and memorable original tunes, this show will delight audiences of all ages.
Little bobo

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Awesome audience feedback for Tom Thumb #TomThumbDNA

Adam Bennett writes: “It’s been a long three weeks. Ten hours a day, seven days a week is a gruelling schedule, but the forge of the rehearsal room is a hot cauldron of creativity and I wouldn’t be anywhere else.The test show gathered some really positive responses.”


“Today January 20th 2016 our wonderful hosts at Horse and Bamboo Theatre Company found us a quick audience. It was last minute. We were meant to be testing some ideas out in Halifax last Sunday but weren’t ready, so waited until we were able to perform with the show sorted out in structure and all the puppets, props, set and costume we needed. Sian Phillips the musician and I had been practicing music and songs for weeks, director Steve Tiplady came for 5 days, pulling the show apart and restitching the scenes together with greater emphasis on visual impact, character and humour. Designer/makers Liz Lempen and Georgina Solo arrived and for a few days to tidy, create and sort the various missing and physical elements of the show.”

“recommended for anyone from 4 to 73. Thank you for making an old woman think”

“the puppets were brilliantly conceived and truly pulled me into a magical world”

“an absolutely amazing performance, beautifully told. Puppets were magical, the music was perfect for the performance.”

“The story was easy to follow and there was a good mix of comedy and storytelling. The music was beautiful and the harp playing gave me goosebumps.”



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Puppetry in the UK

There is a lot going on in the world of puppetry in the UK and particularly in England right now. The British Puppet and Model Theatre Guild is working on a consortium bid for the National Puppetry Archive to become part of a Europe wide network of puppet museums celebrating the heritage of European puppetry. There is a funded consortium of English puppetry organisations and artists having meetings around the country and consulting widely on what can be done to strengthen the puppetry sector. Recently there have been some very successful festivals celebrating the artform of puppetry with performances, masterclasses and events.

Following on from this Rachel McNally of Puppet Place has written a provocative article called Has the popularity of War Horse killed off innovation in UK puppetry? and in response DNA’s Adam Bennett has written a post called Is puppetry and puppet theatre a separate art form? on his own blog.

Two new independent schools of puppetry for professional puppeteers have launched. One in London as a ten week intensive, launching next year, and the other as an ongoing series of short courses in Brighton. Horse and Bamboo near Manchester is offering a regular programme of performances and workshops as well.

Puppet Festivals have been taking place all over England and Scotland this year as well with Manipulate in both countries, Bristol Festival of Puppetry, Skipton Puppet Festival, Rossendale Puppet Festival, Beverley Puppet Festival, Stone Puppet Festival, and Suspense in London.

New and emerging puppetry companies are appearing to add flavour to the UK scene including Gyre and Gimble, Smoking Apples, Mirth and Misery, String Theatre and Odd Doll puppetry. These companies join many hundreds of groups and thousands of individuals working professionally in puppetry in the UK. There is a searchable database of puppeteers and puppetry companies as well as an overview of the puppetry groups and organisations on the Puppeteers UK website


Odd Doll – Red Rust



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Thurtinkle’s Fairy Tales at Little Feet Childrens Festival

IMG_20151028_223107Rachel writes – Thurtinkle had a wonderful time performing at the Little Feet Childrens Festival in Joondalup, Perth, Western Australia last weekend. With Amity Culver presenting, we had fantastic audiences, and inbetween shows had the DNA fairy puppets making magic wishes with children and parents for the Wishing Tree. Lots of beautiful and heart felt messages x

Little feet childrens fest 2015 (1)Little feet childrens fest 2015 (7) Little feet childrens fest 2015 (8) Little feet childrens fest 2015 (12) Little feet childrens fest 2015 (14) Little feet childrens fest 2015 (15) Little feet childrens fest 2015 (16) Little feet childrens fest 2015 (18) Little feet childrens fest 2015 (19) Little feet childrens fest 2015 (21)

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Incredible Iran! Cloud Child at the 22nd Hamedan’s children & Young Adult’s International Theatre Festival

Iran festival poster   ‘There is a House in paradise called Happiness, and one wont be let in , unless he has made children laugh’             Prophet Mohammed.

Rachel Riggs writes – Ive just recently returned from a trip to perform ‘Cloud Child’ in Hamadan, Iran at the 22nd International theatre Festival for Children & Youth 1-6th October 2015. Cloud child rehearse Iran (23)I had been invited to perform at the festival before and this year everything came together, working out the idea of  a collaboration with actress and director Afsaneh Zamanai. We had met two years before at a UNIMA festival in Nanchung, China, became friends and after many emails about visas, making set & props, and how we would collaborate, I was finally going to Iran (the visa arrived just in time!) The show fits in a large suitcase 20 kilos!Iran 2015 (7)We had 4 days to rehearse in Tehran, I was very grateful to be accomodated by the Dramatic Arts Centre of Iran, who organise the festival, and we practiced in ‘ the puppet house’, the Tehran puppet centre, which was perfect. We also managed to fit in sightseeing to the Tehran National Museum and the Bazaar. Tehran is pretty hectic, trying to get across the road is insane and having to remember to keep my hair covered at all times, well i got used to it! But I was very grateful to Afsaneh for steering me in the right directions. Cloud child rehearse Iran (8) Cloud child rehearse Iran (15) Cloud child rehearse Iran (20) Lots of help from my Iranian friends, I met two years ago in Kazakhstan – Hamed Zaeran, Komeil Shavasari & Maryam Tehranihamid makes the houseRehearsals went really well, Afsaneh is very skilled, she speaks great English, and so we had a lot of fun, working through the new version of ‘Cloud Child’ which is the original story simplified to play anywhere, and be open enough to allow contribution from the actor/puppeteer joining the creative venture. Its like a line drawing on paper, someone else can colour in and add their creativity.

Iran 2015 (5) All packed up ready to go to Hamadan, picking up Gary Friedman at the airport on the way! Gary’s here to do a masterclass & film Iranian puppeteers  Also here from South Africa is ‘Patchwork’ by Joanna Evans and Asanda Rilityana, the first professioanl theatre for early years production, supported by Small size, Assitej, which was charming with live music by Pedro the music man, and shared similar theatre making methods.

Iran 2015 (64)‘Cloud Child’ has three performances on the Saturday, so we do the bump in and technical the evening before, which I was glad about because of course we were still working past midnight. It was very interesting to have the show checked by governing authority, and no problems, except to keep the scarf on!tech teamThe technical team were amazing, stuffing cloud cushions, making the space as good as possible and with lots of fluffy clouds pinned around , looked much more inviting for early years audiences.

Iran 2015 (60) The first audience were all early years and perfect, I really enjoyed our performance and interaction with the children. they played with the cushions, and participated in the journey of the story with sensory storytelling – water, fragrant smells and the wind.Iran 2015 (63)The other shows had older children and adult audiences,  still successfull but not quite having the early years energy and responses, the audience still played and enjoyed the sensory aspects, as well as the show being visual and not using any specific language.Iran 2015 (58)Afterwards I was given a beautiful flower bowl & certificate from the Association of Theatre for children & adolescents of Hamadan province.

Iran 2015 (80)Iran is the country of poets, and from my hotel window, I could see Baber Taher’s shrine, reminding me of Thunderbirds are go! on the outside, inside are beautiful inscriptions, and luckily the day we visit, live poetry and  music .

Iran 2015 (17)Im also here to teach a Masterclass for early years educators on the Sunday, all the materials are supplied by the festival, and theres also a group of children joining in too. Which is great, as i can model with the children. As I introduce myself  & my work to the educators, i give the children a scarf each and ask them to imagine what else this material could be?Iran workshop (5)With my excellent translator Mr Mutahari, we get into a rhythm and talk about the importance of play, letting the children lead the exploration with given materials, the adult observing and following the children’s imaginative investigations. Iran workshop (15)I use a mug to demonstrate making an instant puppet. My friends 3 and a half years old daughter  perfectly assisted with no verbal language used. Firstly she used the mug as its functional use to drink from, then i turned it over and moved it as a head, and she pointed to where the eyes should be, So I stick on googly eyes, and she points to her own eyes. Then i model adding cloth to make a body for an instant character and interact with her, she touches the face and then takes my hand, the puppets hand. We also use our hands as puppets sticking on eyes and everyone has hands on play. Iran workshop (16)I also talk about a puppet as a communication tool, and how I use this in the early years theatre and play workshops I create. I demonstrate with Cloud Child and immediately Mahora runs over to interact with the puppet again!mahora & ccThe children have made their own creations from the scarves,naturally giving time to process and also use the cloud cushions. . They have some fantastic ideas and one girl has made a simple bird by folding the scarf material, she makes it peck from its nest of a cushion.I ask her how it flies and assist her when she shows me, taking a wing to manipulate. The imagination is always free and the children play happily making up stories, using furniture in the room.Iran workshop (12)I also talk about the importance of sensory play, giving time to the process of exploration, to smell, taste and touch, see and feel. I demonstrate how this is used in the ‘Cloud child’ show with fabrics, water, fans and aromas.

Iran workshop (18)It was a great privilege to share ideas and skills with female early years educators & theatre makers in Iran at the festival, and also to make contacts for future masterclasses and productions. Iran has the most sophistictaed theatre tradition in the middle east and a rich history, often overshadowed by modern predjudices . My trip to Iran was a wonderful opportunity to get a taste of the ancient & modern cultures, artistic traditions and vast amount of contemporary work happening in childrens theatre. In Tehran there are 3 childrens theatres, one dedicated to young children, and it would be very interesting and beneficial to develop further connections and collaborations.Iran 2015 (143)At the closing ceremony ‘Cloud Child’ recieved a Hamadan special ceramic award for childrens theatre and it was very interesting to see the incredible lifetimes work of Puppet master Marziyeh Boroomand in Iranian childrens theatre and tv, honoured with a special award . People have grown up with her television puppet characters and showed much appreciation.award iranHuge thanks WA Department of Culture and Arts ‘Artsflight’ programme who funded my trip, and to the staff of the International childrens festival for a very successful event, and my Iranian friends new and old, for their friendship & hospitality.Iran 2015 (75)DCAlogo



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