... Inventing lip-sync mechanisms for Citizen Puppet.
Assistant Producer Alex takes a tea break with Associate Fiona Clift, to find out what it is she’s making...
A: what’s going on for you in the workshop?
F: We’re expanding the puppet cast of Citizen Puppet to about 20, so I thought this was a good opportunity to improve my sculpting skills and understand how mechanisms work. And by making the mechanisms and really knowing how the puppet works, my puppeteering skills improve as well.
A: what’s your starting point for making a puppet head?
F: The provocation for this one I’m doing now – the Mayor of Massiveville in CP - was Tom Hanks in Saving Mr Banks that I watched over Christmas. Something about his chubby face and little moustache... it gave inspiration for strong features when sculpting the head. He also has a comb over which feels very ‘in’ right now.
A: what is this stuff you’re brushing onto it?
F: I’m Jesmonite-ing – a two part material (powder mixed with water) that hardens over styrofoam to harden the head and protect it
A: CP is a ‘puppet verbatim’ piece, where the puppets have moving mouths?
F: Yes! You’ve got a lot of known moving-mouth puppets (Spitting Image, the Muppets) but not quite like these. Following experiments in the first run of the show (2015) we’re expanding on the bunraku model of puppet. The big breakthrough here is moving the mechanism from the head to further down the back of the puppet.
A: how has that pushed things forward?
F: Well, with just the head you get a bit obsessed with the puppet from the neck up. But by lowering the mechanism the puppet is more ‘centred’ and you’ve got better overall control of the puppet so you can concentrate on improvising as the character more. Before it was all isolated in the head.
A: When will the Mayor of Massiveville get his first outing?
F: We’re getting ready to test out the mechanisms through some workshopping next week, and the latest draft of the script.
Can you spot the difference?