Northcott Futures Take Part In Puppetry Masterclass

Our Futures group recently brought objects to life with puppeteer Dave Oliver.

Dave is a celebrated puppeteer and puppet builder from the South West who has performed across a range of children’s television programmes and theatre productions over the past 25 years. In his masterclass, Dave showed our Futures group the basics of puppetry as well as how to create convincing characters through voice and movement.

Dave began the workshop by stressing the importance of characterisation in puppetry. The group eagerly grabbed their puppets (many having never used one before) and Dave encouraged them to ‘talk’ through their puppets and give them their own personalities and quirks. One trick Dave showed the group to make puppets feel alive is to have the puppets ‘spit out’ their words, a technique made famous by Jim Henson, creator of The Muppets and The Dark Crystal. The group were quickly blown away at how much they could express through their puppets.

I learnt lots in a completely new skill. The workshop was enjoyable and I met lots of lovely new people with similar interests.” – Futures group member

Exeter Northcott Futures Puppetry Masterclass promotional image. Background: Black theatre curtain drawn a quarter of the way across a white wall (right to left). A white fire escape door. Foreground: Two women (left) hold hands and smile while watching another woman (right) operate a hand puppet. The hand puppet is shaped like a rat and is wearing a red sailor's jacket.
Photo by Ralph Whitehead
Exeter Northcott Futures Puppetry Masterclass promotional image. Background: Black theatre curtain drawn almost entirely across a white wall. A group of people out of focus. Foreground: A woman wearing a light blue jumper operates a rod puppet of Robin Hood, wearing a dark green tunic, light green hood and holding a sword.
Photo by Ralph Whitehead

After a quick coffee break, it was time for the group to tackle the challenge of puppet movement. Dave used rod puppets to demonstrate how to walk and interact puppets with each other. Walking is no easy feat when it comes to puppetry, but with Dave’s expert guidance, the group quickly got the hang of it; he gave the group tips on how to keep the puppet’s feet close to the ground and move them in a natural rhythm. Dave also revealed that the eyes are often the most expressive part of the puppet (and thus the key to convincing storytelling!), and showed the group how to make the puppet’s head turn and nod while their eyes follow the action.

Great fun, and thought provoking too!” – Futures group member

As the masterclass came to a close, Dave set a thrilling challenge for the group: to create short scenes with their puppets using everything they had learned. The group’s creativity was on full display as they came up with fantastic ideas, like Robin Hood and Friar Tuck getting spooked by a castle guard they were trying to steal from, and two shipwrecked sailors facing off against an angry nun. It was clear that everyone in the group had heaps more confidence in their puppeteering skills.

Exeter Northcott Futures Puppetry Masterclass promotional image. Background: Black theatre curtain. Foreground: A man (left), wearing a blue-grey knitted jumper, watches a mixed group of people operate two rod-puppets on a wooden table. The group are operating the puppets so that they look like they are fighting each other.
Photo by Ralph Whitehead

Our workshops are a fantastic opportunity to learn about theatre from some of the best in the business. Check out our upcoming masterclasses via the below button.

Upcoming masterclasses

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