In 2011, Puppeteer & Theatre Maker Oliver Hymans led our 10 week education programme with young participants at the Roundhouse. He has recently finished working on Little Angel Youth Theatre's Jabberwocky, which was on at Suspense Festival last month.
I caught up with Oliver to find out more about his work with puppetry...
Who are you and what do you do?
I'm a freelance theatre maker, puppet director and arts educational practitioner. I'm currently the Youth and Adult Company Director at Little Angel Theatre, Director for Cine Live (an immersive theatre company - think Secret Cinema for teenagers), a Visiting Lecturer in Scenography at Rose Bruford College and I have an ongoing shadow puppetry performance at the Museum of London about prehistory.
How did you get into Puppetry?
Quite randomly! I dabbled in puppetry during my MA Scenography at Central Saint Martins but had no formal training. I then went on to use puppets and object manipulation in a performance about my family heritage called Jew(ish).
What inspired you to work in puppetry with young people?
I've always been passionate about arts education. I trained to be a secondary school teacher on the Teach First programme and feel quite strongly about exposing and engaging more young people to theatre... especially those from more disadvantaged backgrounds. I feel it's an exciting time to be in puppetry and it's always rewarding working with a new group of young people to demystify the preconceptions of the art form.
Do you only work with young people?
Not at all. I have led puppetry projects with over 60s, young offenders, community groups, asylum seekers, teachers, theatre professionals and even circus performers at the National School of Circus in Columbia!
How do you go about making a show with people who have never done puppetry before?
I always start any workshop or rehearsal process by introducing the three principles of puppetry - Breath, Focus and Fixed Point. From there you can pretty much animate anything.
Is there a particular style of puppet you most like to work with?
Since the Roundhouse project with Blind Summit, I have continued to work on projects with giant or large scale puppets - sort of Bunraku in style however all the limbs and body parts are disconnected/held together in space by 5-6 puppeteers.
What do you find the most challenging about working with puppets?
Every puppet takes an incredibly long time to create, and time is always a limited resource!
What is your most memorable moment from any project you've done?
I am particularly proud of the giant puppet opera of Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle which I directed for the Arcola Theatre this summer in the Olympic Park. It was so exciting working on such large scale puppets and training local community performers to become the puppeteers in such beautiful surroundings. Fortunately, we were very lucky with the weather each evening and the wind was kind to us (we had 2 14ft puppets to keep upright!)
What's next for you?
I have two new shows in March 2016 with the Little Angel Youth and Adult Companies - puppet adaptations of Shelley's Frankenstein and Edgar Allen Poe's A Man Of The Crowd. We're also in talks about getting Bluebeard's Castle performed again next summer at a festival.
And finally, what's your top puppetry tip?
When you're working big, make 'em light!