Monday, 2 November 2015

'Meet Fred' - a show about what it's really like to be a puppet...

Two weeks ago, we went to work with Hijinx Theatre during R&D for their new puppet show Meet Fred. 

I wanted to find out more about the project from Artistic Director Ben Pettitt-Wade...

Who are Hijinx Theatre?
We are a professional theatre company based at the Wales Melliennium Centre in Cardiff, who tour small scale theatre throughout the UK and Europe. What makes us different is that our casts always include actors who have learning disabilities.

What is Meet Fred about?
Meet Fred is about a regular guy that just happens to be a puppet and the difficulties he faces living as a puppet in the real world. 

Where did the idea come from?

It all started with a weeklong residency led by Blind Summit in 2013, this experience made me want to create a show with a puppet. Afterwards we asked Blind Summit to make some cloth puppets for our training courses for learning disabled performers. We spent another year exploring puppeteering with our students, before we did 2 days of R&D in April this year. At the R&D the character of Fred started to appear: a very self aware puppet that lives in the real world. We had a lot of fun exploring the various difficulties this might encounter - going on a date, or to the job centre. 

What made you decide to do a puppet show?
The relationship between the puppet and his puppeteers is a really interesting metaphor for issues that are pertinent within the learning disabled community: support, dependence, interdependence and ultimately independence. 

We're thrilled that one of our cloth training puppets have ended up in the show. What inspired you to use him?
I love the simplicity. I love that he is naked and therefore vulnerable in the world. I love that he is literally a blank canvas. 

What has been the main focus of the R&D last week?
In the first 3 days we focused on creating a story arc for Fred. We used big bits of paper, mapping out the potential plot and stuck them up around the room. In the last 2 days when Tom Espiner from Blind Summit joined us, we focused very much on the puppetry. The effect this had was that Fred suddenly seemed to wake up in this room which had his life all mapped out, without him having any prior knowledge of it. This seemed to work rather well. 

What has been the most challenging aspect of the project so far?
Being able to adapt and change as we progress - not being afraid to let go of ideas in favour of others. 

What is the next stage in development for the project?
We now go into rehearsals at the end of January. We then have a short two week tour in South Wales. We hope to take it to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival next year followed by a national tour.

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