Adam Bennett has been spending some time in the workshop of The Boo – the creation centre of Horse and Bamboo Theatre. Set in the rural pennine hills north of Manchester this workshop is an inspiring place for playful experimentation with form. Adam has been coming up with staging, design and puppetry concepts for the next touring show Tom Thumb, a new DNA show produced with support from Horse and Bamboo and touring from late January 2016.
I was keen to explore the creation of set and puppets that would encourage children to get out into nature and see forms, characters and stories in the branches, sticks and twigs found in woods and parks as well as washed up on beaches. With this in mind I collected many different sizes and shapes of fallen or washed up wood. In the workshop I wanted to explore a process of discovering the staging and the characters from the natural forms. I didn’t want to impose shapes but discover, articulate and reveal the characters of the Tom Thumb story.
I set up a piece of marine ply on three branches to serve as a tabletop staging for the show, and hung a curtain of branches behind to play with the idea of a playboard.
I joined two tiny, soft pieces of driftwood together with some twine to become little Tom, attaching a rod that could slide through the head. This means I can operate Tom from above and below. I’m concerned that the wood is too soft to withstand the rigours of touring….
Merlin is a very abstract shape and doesn’t really make sense until he’s operated. After a little struggle the audience starts to see a face in the odd shape – I hope!
Titania is the queen of the Faerie Folk. She is made from found driftwood, and currently her wings are made from paper – which is a kind of wood…
Little Tom makes friends with a mouse (called Steed) as a child. The leather ears are a bit of a cheat, but without them Steed doesn’t really read as a mouse!
In the story Tom is snatched by a bird. It was meant to be a raven, but I found an owl in the wood. It’s made from five different pieces of wood.
This is a larger version of Tom which is used after he is Knighted by King Arthur and sent to fight a dragon. Still very much a work-in-progress. The legs/arms are driftwood and the body/head is made from a branch as you can see.
The dragon is pretty spectacular and needed almost no adjusting. In fact two are currently in the running. Both are large branches with impressive looking heads on the ends. I’m not including them in this post. Spoilers.
Tom Thumb will be at The Lowry, Salford, Artsdepot London, Warwick Arts Centre Coventry, Norwich Puppet Theatre and lots more.