⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The Guardian
"a wintry feast of the uncanny...making merry use of puppetry and magic"
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The Herald
"a dazzling thumb-through a story-book to savour...accompanied by the fantastical largesse of Fergus Dunnet’s puppet creations...the elaborate piece of one-line absurdism that is The Little Mandarin is a laugh out loud hoot"
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The Scotsman
"a beautiful and passionate show...eloquent large-scale visual imagery"
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Bouquets and Brikbats
"a quirky, dreamlike piece of theatre that lingers in the mind long after the applause...and there’s a little bit of magic or illusion too, with a couple of vanishing acts that genuinely bewilder me. How did they…? Huh?"
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Reviews Hub
"sumptuous stage sorcery which places storytelling above all else and echoes a profound admiration for culture, narrative and theatre...It is though, a combination of sleight of hand, magic and some finger puppets which captivates the audiences"
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ScotsGay Arts
"a visually splendid and delightfully engaging blend of storytelling, puppetry, martial arts and physical theatre...was particularly impressed by the giant red demon"
"a heart-warming cultural exchange...frivolous, comic, surreal and dark...The audience is even treated to some dazzling displays of illusionism, which leave them audibly aghast...It’s hilariously received by the audience, and is a well-crafted vignette"
North West End
"bravely tackles fantastical content with aplomb, achieving gasps and giggles from the capacity crowd"
"an intoxicating and stylish fusion of colour...beautiful craftsmanship...there is creativity abundant in this fascinating production...misdirection, sleight of hand, stage furniture and props that work elegantly and effectively. There is also some well- used puppetry"
The Wee Review
"beautifully conceived and executed"
"beautiful, magical and slightly terrifying"
"The “smoke and mirrors” were superb. The little “snot” things coming out of his nose and changing into lizard type creatures. How did they do that ? The mesmerising mobile “puppet train” which was lit up and bobbing across the stage. I could go on and on."
Audience member review from UK Theatre Web
Photo: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan
For the past while I've been working on puppets and magic for Strange Tales, a co-production by Grid Iron Theatre Company and the Traverse Theatre. I've had a great time!
It's on until 21st December, and you can buy tickets here.
The Big Sneeze
These puppets were for a story where a man sneezes out strange mouse-like creatures that eat each other and grow bigger. I researched baby mice, and had in mind a sort of tiny gremlin.
The first creature was a finger puppet.
The second creature was to look a bit older, bigger and more developed. I designed it to be operated by pulling the tail.
The third creature needed to be greedy looking, a lot fatter and quite animated.
This puppet played the role of the guest of a Taoist Priest. It had to be life-sized with enough movement to take part in the scene, but it also needed to be operated at most times by a single performer. The costume was provided by the talented costume maker, and cut to allow the control rods to pass through at the back and elbows. The final photo here is a production shot taken by Tommy Ga-Ken Wan.
This puppet chases the performers around the stage. I looked at traditional Chinese Lion performance as a guide and decided to make it using as similar a technique as I could. In performance it also has a long raffia beard.
The Paper Man
This character has been conjured up by a psychic, using her tarot cards. The decoration of the puppet was inspired by traditional Chinese armour, which features large armour plates fixed to fabric garments. It has a party popper mounted inside the torso for it's dramatic death scene.
The Little Mandarin
This was a miniature parade of fifteen characters. I researched Chinese parades, carriages and the musical instruments that the incredible composer Ruth Chan was using in the score for this section of the show. The build wobbles from side to side as it is pulled along. The central carriage is used to store a portable speaker and battery packs for sound and lighting. The talented team at the Traverse fitted the parade with miniature LED lights. The final photo here is another production shot taken by Tommy Ga-Ken Wan.
This character is revealed to be a ghoul that disguises itself in the skin of a girl. I don't have any photos of this mask completed, but here it is in the early stages of the process. In performance the mask is glimpsed but never fully seen, acting like an absence more than an object really.
This make was for a scene where a character gets their heart ripped out by the ghoul from the previous make, it was carved from a block of foam and decorated with a mix of silicone and acrylic paint.
Here are some snaps of variations, character designs and alternative ideas.
Last weekend was Paisley Halloween Festival, organised this year by Cirque Bijou. I spent a couple of weeks leading up to it working on this freak-show inspired stage front for a performance by PACE theatre group.
Below you can see the initial design, and then the stages of painting.
It's the first sign painting job I've had in a while, and it was fun to work in that way again after quite a long break from that type of work. But it's cold and rainy outside now, so I am happy to be back inside for the next job.
I've just finished work on the design for Tenterhooks' new performance MESS.
MESS is a piece of classroom theatre for young people with complex learning needs. An ordinary daily routine turns into an extra-ordinary adventure, full of character clowning, harmony singing, intensive interaction, suspense and surprise!
MESS will be touring schools around Scotland from next week.
Check out the MESS website for more info!
Making a start on a new game, currently bashing together the idea of twirling round and visuals inspired by the Book of Kells.
Working this week on a development of the Two Detectives show The Museum of Mistakes was a lot of fun!
Here are some photos I just received of members of the Loch Arthur Camphill Community trying on costumes I made them for their upcoming performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream. A huge thank you to the lovely Paragon music company who are running this wonderful project, and to Sarah Rose Graber for getting me involved.
I am a Glasgow based visual artist and maker