Sunday 27th January arrives and myself and the Company are, like any Company before preview, hopeful as we await an audience. As the morning passes; performers Adam & Liz walk through the performance with Rachel’s final directions. I run around helping with anything from sound to props patching, lifting, moving and filming.
And then I find myself, quite inexplicably, in the cafe area behind the studio space, making a puppet. Liz Mutch is Horse & Bamboo’s Family Audience Development and Marketing Manager, she is preparing a pop-up workshop space with joint Artistic Director Alison Duddle. *Alison shows me how to make my very own cloud child puppet. I contentedly settle down to work… by which I of course mean Play, and before I know it, I am surrounded by children and parents, young and not-so-young, doing exactly the same thing!
Here’s one of the little ones making a Cloud Child puppet
You see, at Horse & Bamboo and at DNA, we don’t just drove people in, put on a show and scoot off, bob’s your Uncle thank you very much. Not one bit. In making a show we make a World, and in making a World we invite you into it. And if you’re going to enter our world perhaps you’d like to bring a friend, a friend you’ve made and can keep as a reminder of your time with us. You, boys and girls, mums and dads, men and women, yes YOU make the magic on the day; and because of that reason you can and should take some of that magic home with you.
So here I am, sitting in the workshop space, which is filling up with more and more and MORE people. I recall my earlier worries – “will we have enough audience members?” and begin to wonder if we have enough seats (turns out we don’t but the taller adults are more than happy to fill the aisles). We’re already running out of space in the workshop room, but families are sharing tables and babies are wandering freely, before long the room is filled with all the noisy, cosy feel of a temporary family. I pick my way through the building mass of people, tiptoeing over half-made baby cloud puppets, toddler escapees, pull along toys and painted pictures drying on the floor. And into the studio we go.
The show is beautiful. Stimulating and moving. When performer Liz floats silken sheets over the little ones on the mats at the front (sitting on cloud shaped cushions!) their hands shoot up in a mini tidal wave to feel the soft fabric. Puppeteer Adam floats clouds across the stage in a storm, before handing over to the front row, which sits and cuddles comfy clouds throughout. When the laundry is washed, damp towels are flapped at the audience and the aroma of essential oils reaches all the way to the back (myself and nearby parents breathe a collective sigh of calm). When it’s time to let her go we come up onto the stage and see how the World was made. A video camera projects images of the audience onto sheets hung on the washing line and we get to say hello to Cloud Child and the performers.
Some of the children take their own cloud puppets up on stage, my little cloud baby floats about the audience saying hello and enjoying the attention.
After that it’s time to go, but not before some finishing touches are added to everyone’s puppets. Having seen the show, the audience is adamant that they must now polish and finesse their cloud babies and we spill back into the workshop space for a crafty 15 minutes.
I ask some thoughts on favourite bits of the show, and am told: “the interactive bits”, “the sleepy bit and the flying away bit”, “the lights, the sensory, the clouds, the disco-ball”, “the material”, “the visual effects” – which was essentially the entire show, and I do believe that is a thumbs up for Cloud Child! So I shall leave you with a few quotes from our very lovely audience.
“We loved the Cloud Child. The puppetry was amazing, really simple language and we loved the sounds. He loved it”
– Rachel & Richard
“Really mesmerised by it, I’ll definitely come back”
– Andrea Toynto
“One of the best performances I’ve seen for under 5s” – Irina Barbolina
* How to make a baby cloud child.
– Take a piece of white cotton material, approximately 50cm x 50cm
– Tie a small knot in each of the top two corners and a large knot in each of the bottom two corners
– Gather the material in between the top two corners and stuff a little Dacron/spare cloth into it so you have a rounded bulb at the top, the bulb will be your puppet’s head
– Secure the bulb with a length of string/ribbon, nice and tight, like a balloon
– Decorate your puppet’s head with eyes/nose/mouth/hair – you can use string, wool, buttons, marker pens, butterfly pins (anything you like really!)
Thanks to Alison Duddle, and the team at the Boo, Horse & Bamboo Theatre Company, Rossendale, Lancs for the Family Enrichment workshop and ll their support! www.horseandbamboo.org