Working today on this image for Dance with the Devil, a walkabout theatre piece by Diane Thornton which will take place at Galoshins festival in Greenock this Halloween. Over the next few months I'll be making the props to go with the show, more on that soon.
I'm very excited to be taking part in Testroom, a puppetry development programme with Gavin Glover, supported by Puppet Animation Scotland and the National Theatre of Scotland. It starts in October and runs for eight weeks. We will have the chance to develop puppet ideas in a collaborative group environment lead by Gavin.
I'll be working on a large monster puppet, which will be the first step towards realising my project Fear, a collaborative arts project exploring how fear affects us consciously and unconsciously in the actions we take and the decisions we make in our lives.
Fear is a primal emotion which has been with us since before we evolved into humans. Every culture that has ever developed on Earth has invented monsters to represent our overwhelming fears. Their lack of humanity, senseless violence, terrifying forms and sinister motives act as a metaphor for our complex emotional responses to the social, political and personal problems we encounter in our lives. Monsters chase and torment us, and we are afraid.
Above all else we fear death, and the monster will most certainly kill us. We fear sexuality - the woman-chasing monster is a sexually aggressive male one moment, and then a transgendered sexual superior to the men it penetrates and kills. We fear monstrous beasts that will eat us, monstrous perverts that hide in dark shadows, monstrous threats to the norm which force us to change. We fear the unknown, the incomprehensible, the immoral, the transgressive, the deviant, the experimental, the shameful past, the shocking new, the unstoppable ticking of time and the grim inexplicable reality of existence itself. We fear cultures we don't understand, and the monster is the ultimate dangerous Other. When a murderer is called a monster, it dehumanises them, and distances us from the horrifying things we are capable of. Because we fear each other, but we also fear ourselves. Monsters are our inner fear manifest. They are a picture of one side of us, the side we don't want to believe is really there, the side of humanity that is terrifying.
Monsters are not real, physical beings, they are a product of our imaginations which flicker into reality when we are afraid. In representing a monster, puppetry offers the perfect balance of the real and the unreal. In asking the audience to suspend their disbelief and believe in the unreal, puppetry creates a mimicry of life which naturally provokes excitement and unease in us. A puppet monster is very different from a performer in a monster suit - I want the audience to be absolutely certain that it is not real, and still be scared of it. I am very interested in finding out what types of fear response puppet monsters can trigger, how the shapes, textures and movements of these puppets affect our fears, and how we can breathe the eerie life of the living undead onto the stage.
Today the sun is out, so I'm taking the chance to work on these group signs for Sma' Shot Parade, which will take place in Paisley on 2nd July. The structures are made from willow withies fastened to garden cane . They were covered with plastic wrap for strength then papered first with wet strength tissue paper, and after that with coloured tissue paper. Line details were added with graffiti pens. The signs will be fastened to 3m tall painted bamboo poles, with cane crossbars to stop them from spinning around in the wind, and hanging ribbons to animate them in the wind. Structurally the aim is to make something as lightweight as possible, which will not cause a risk in bad weather. As with much Street Parade design, the visual aim is to represent community identity with something simple and recognisable, big enough to make an impact outdoors, bright, eye-catching and cheery.
"Can your best friend really be a robot? And can robots really adapt to think and feel like humans? The story in Rob Drummond’s play, Uncanny Valley, makes one girl’s attachment to her techno-chum into a nail-biting race to re-programme her robot before the local mayor has it destroyed – at the same time, however, Drummond’s interaction with young audiences encourages them to explore, and voice, their own ideas about our relationship with technology and ongoing advances in artificial intelligence. Issue-based theatre is rarely as witty, thought-provoking or as open to audience reactions as this piece for children and young people"
CATS AWARDS 2016
I'm seriously overexcited to hear that Uncanny Valley has won the Best Production for Children and Young People at the Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland (CATS). It was a complicated and hugely interesting collaborative project to work on, where each member of the team had something well thought out and skilful to bring to the table, and the end result is a show which none of us could have realised on our own.
You can watch a short video I made about the design process in an earlier blog here.
Here is a snap of one of the fuzzy creatures warming up for Call of Nature last weekend on Bute. We were performing on the gloriously beautiful Mount Stuart Estate, in a sun dappled pine forest. It has been a real treat visiting these gorgeous Scottish locations with the show, and lovely to meet the young folk who live there. Each time we go to a new place the show needs to be sited to fit the location. Although it's quite difficult trying to work out how to navigate a new space, and set a particular scene around a different shaped fallen tree, or an unexpected ditch, the show itself gets to change shape a little and refresh itself with each new landscape.
Uncanny Valley has been nominated for a CATS (Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland) award!
It is up for Best Production for Children and Young People. The other shows it is up against look really good, but getting a nomination is very exciting!
I am a Glasgow based visual artist and maker.