Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Puppets for Patrick (the snakey saint guy)

Tangle theatre is reincarnated once more!!!!!                        after a last minute application me and co-collaborator Arran of Cork Circus were accepted for a commission for this years St.Patricks day parade... the theme was happyness and what more appropriate than aliens!?!?!?              Well yeh perhaps you don't see the connection but aliens looking from another planet and seeing the world as it is, come here not to suck our brains but to show us how to have a good time!

Space ship puppet theatre and life size alien rod puppet

The Parade was great fun, we worked with a youth group from Mahon and a group of asylum seekers, mostly from the African continent, the group creation of the aliens worked really well, as in making an alien there's no rules really, because their aliens, and because no one can really say what and alien looks like, theres no mistakes, and no wrong way to do it, which can be very liberating when not so confident with your artistic skills, I used a stuffed bag technique to make the alien heads, where you make a rough shape with bags stuffed with newspaper, rubbish, anything really, tape it into place then build up layers of newspaper and brown paper stuck together with wallpaper paste, if you click on my 2008 posts you should see this technique, as i used it in La Cambalacha in Guatemala on my second vist to their fantastic place
The aliens having a great ol time in their converted paddling pools

Me and mr alien

details of control

jus chillin

detail of hand puppet potential
We used a kind of foam called profile foam for the tentacles, these were off cuts of foam and kindly donated by Vita Cortex a foam factory in Cork, the natural bubbiness of the foam looked very alien tentacle and all that was required was to cut, glue and paint them
flying saucers

alien controlled robot and flying saucer aliens

skeleton of alien rod puppet
The alien rod puppet was constructed from tent poles recycled from last years festivals, this skeleton was then covered in foam, using copydex to glue it, which needed to be heated with a hairdryer to make it stick effectively, foam and copydex is actually the same substance, copydex being latex and foam being latex with has had foaming agent added then cooked like bread, this fact only came to light when i researched how to create puppets from a mold... and i blew my did.
more skeleton
Once the foam was carved to the right shape, the whole thing was covered in copydex and muslin, then layers of copydex mixed with pigment.
The fun thing was when the copydex was at just the right stage of drying, you could actually shape and mould the features, the softer the foam the more effective this was
carving foam head
Demonstrated by copydex man, my little test piece i made, he was made from very soft foam and i had great fun shaping him by hand.  and made quite a freaky little fellow
copydex man.....little test piece

foam body before latex and muslin applied

Puppet maker Lesley givin it some alien moves

asylum seeker workshop painting large paper mache head

more detail of painting


Arran painting tentacle surrounded by flying saucers

internals of flying saucer

flying saucer packed down, neat ay

Assembling African alien, note red cross for mouth signifying lack of voice for asylum seekers

Arran an the Alien
Big Eye

found a few clips of the paddys parade on youtube, this is the whole parade and we are at about 41.50

this clip is a bit better: and we are on at
about 12 mins in theres a good bit of Arrans alien robot on it

and some good flying saucer spin action on
at about 29 mins in.....

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Puppet Chicken

At the end of 2010, friend, clown and sometime collaborator Arran, commissioned me to construct a puppet chicken to be included in a performance him and three other clowns were doing as Clowns without Borders in Somalia. A chicken was selected as it was easily reconised, and it was built around a builders hat in order for it to be placed on the head.

The legs were contructed of wire and newspaper jointed with bolts, strung from behing to give realistisc chicken movement, the wings were made from truck inner tube bolted to the builders hat

The finish of the chicken was exposed newspaper paper mache, as the clown show was called 'Good News' utilising newspaper props, so the show didn't look too flashy, and keeping accessible to all audiences.

This was the first time in twenty years an international performance group were in Somalia as it is a country with no government to speak of and a chaotic situation for much of the inhabitants, who are mostly displaced within their own country.

I felt honoured to be involved in a small way in such an inspiring project, as bringing smiles and laughter to situations where hope and joy is in short supply has been an ambition of mine for a long time, ever since reading the circus to iraq blogs in 2004 (

The puppet was constructed in my freezing workshop with the wood burner was on constantly, and the water would freeze as it came out of the tap into my kettle as i fed my need for constant cups of tea.

So it felt a little sureal that in those conditions it was then whisked to the 30-35 blinding sun to become part of  a circus clown routine to entertain children who'd witnessed untold horrors in there short lives

A very inspiring project, and one i was very happy to have a small part in.
For more information click on