Archive for January 2012

Well after telling you about my preparations for the puppet show the Frog Prince and the fact that I was adding the twist of making the princess turn into a spider, wasp and a ladybird.  I have now made the wasp and ladybird puppets (I already had the spider puppet).

I used felt, the stuffing from an old pillow, black pop socks, metallic pipe cleaners and wobbly eyes to make my puppets.  I didn’t have a pattern I just cut my felt put and used my sewing machine to sew the pieces together, if I hadn’t used my machine I would still be making them now.  I am very much a novice sewer and have just graduated from sewing in a straight line to sewing in a curved line for theses puppets.

My aim was to make easily recognisable puppets that were robust enough to be manhandled by curious nursery children.  After every performance in an early years setting I let the children play with the puppets so that they can feel the story with their own hands and manipulate the character.

I managed to get feathers all over the place and my puppets looked more like baby owls rather than the insects they were.  I was looking forward for my tester (my son Alistair) to come and give his verdict on my puppets.  I did each puppet a different week, the first puppet was the wasp.

When I buzzed the wasp in front of Alistair’s face the first thing he said was, ‘Im’ scared’, which was how I wanted the children to feel.  Then he said, ‘Alistair have it’, which again was exactly how I wanted children to react, he then proceeded to test its robustness by waving it about and fortunately it stayed intact. 

Buzz buzz I am going to get you!

This week I made the ladybird puppet with exactly the same criteria and materials.  I really had to develop my skills of sewing in a curve for this puppet, ladybirds are of course round.
Again my tester gave me his opinion of my puppet and tested it for its strength.  He wasn’t scared this time because he quite likes ladybirds and played with it without it falling apart.  It is pretty much the reaction you would expect from a toddler about a ladybird.

Look what I have found!

I can’t wait to perform with these puppets and I am already planning my next one to go with this show, which will be frog spawn and a tadpole.



My next pantomime is my own version of the Frog Prince, I actually wrote it nearly a year ago and just haven’t been satisfied with it in terms of being a pantomime.  So I have just left it and now have added more scenes to it to encourage audience participation.

You have to admit the story of the frog prince is very nice but quite bland and predictable.  I added Punch and Judy to the story last year but still wasn’t satisfied that it enriched the story enough.  After subconsciously thinking about my play for nearly a year I decided to add a twist to the story because I didn’t believe that a selfish prince could learn a lesson from being turned into a frog and then charming an innocent princess into kissing him.

The twist I included involved a clause in the curse that meant that the princess turned into a spider when they kissed.  Of course the only solution, as told by the witch, was for the prince to kiss the spider.  The prince being selfish and terrified of being turned back into a frog again refused and enlisted the help of a wizard and a fairy to use their magic to change her back into a princess again.  of course this was not the solution and she transformed into a wasp and then a ladybird.

The prince was still reluctant to help the princess until she decided that she was not going to be his friend any more and didn’t want to have anything to do with him.  Fortunately the prince really was in love with the princess and decided that he would rather her friendship than life without her, after all he was quite used to being a frog.  Of course the curse was lifted and they lived happily ever after.

I am also completing a version for my early years pantomime where the prince is turned into frog spawn instead of having Punch and Judy.  This means that we can look at the life cycle of a frog as well as characteristics of mini-beasts, making it an appropriate introduction or completion of a topic on mini-beasts.

Maybe all frogs are princes inside and unfortunately all princes may be frogs inside – just watch out when you kiss one.

On Wednesdays I usually go to the library and sit in the peace and quiet and write and prepare my puppet shows.  I have found it very useful to take up as much space on the table and give out a silent growl when anyone comes near to the table, thus preventing them from wanting to sit next to me.

The project I am working on during this time is an adaptation of a Midsummer Nights Dream by the Bard himself.  I am intending to set up a drama group next year for children between the ages of seven to twelve so that we can explore and stage different genres.  The aim is for the children to have a solid understanding of the story, characters and the text so that when they do act it out in front of family and close friends they can confidently put on a Shakespeare play in the traditional way.

Presently I am writing the play as a story using ‘Shakespeare Made Easy’ as a guide.  I initially intended to write these notes as a fairy story for much younger children but realise that Shakespeare’s use of language and action means that I have to make thorough notes to ensure that I capture the most important parts of the play in my own adaptation.  I have to admit that I had never studied Shakespeare so thoroughly in the past because it wasn’t as essentially to really understand the play in order to explain it to someone else.

I have visited the Globe Theatre in London (Well the rebuilt one) and it was apparent that the plays were performed for rich and poor people alike, your class was determined by your location in the theatre.  Plays were written for everyone to watch and enjoy, I would say in the same way a soap opera is watched today but that would not be a suitable comparison as there is a great difference in quality.

Bearing in mind that the plays were written for everyone to enjoy, it is interesting to see that the language has not been compromised by the need to accommodate everyone’s level of understanding.  Maybe this was because the spoken word was used more frequently to pass on information and ideas than the written word.  For someone who wasn’t highly educated Shakespeare’s ability to draw images with words and develop such poetic sentence structure is amazing.  We see that poetry is high up on his agenda when Bottom and Quince decide that they need to write a prologue for their play and were debating on the number of lines they were going to write it in , off the top of my head I recall that they settled for eight.

Shakespeare definitely had comic timing and thoroughly enjoyed playing with the concept of irony.  The play is actually really funny and farcical, I am really looking forward to writing the script with the misunderstandings and silliness.

The plot of the play is quite simple; it is based on four pairs of ‘lovers’ on their own romantic journeys that get entangled in a fairy glade.  The first couple is Theseus and Hippolyte, the Duke of Athens and the Queen of the Amazons who met while in battle and decided to make love and not war.  The play starts four days before their wedding and the are feeling very impatient.  The second couple we meet are Hermia and Lysander who are in love but her father disproves the match and threatens her with either becoming a nun or death if she doesn’t marry his chosen suitor.  Thirdly we meet Helena and Demetrius, she is in love with him but he is in love with Hermia, and the more she is rejected the more she loves him.  Finally we are introduced to Oberon and Titania, the king and queen of the fairies who are squabbling over a little human child they both want to play with.

It is the discord between Titania and Oberon that causes the who situation to become a farce because Oberon wants to get his own back by making Titania fall in love with the next awful creature she sees by means of the juice from a purple flower.  Oberon being an old romantic requested that his jester Puck put the same juice on Demetrius’ eyes so that he would fall in love with Helena.  Of course Puck put it on Lysander’s eyes, who was eloping with Hermia and sleeping.  The first person he saw was of course Helena and he fell deeply in love her and abandoned Hermia.  When Oberon realised what had happened he ordered Puck to put the juice in Demetrius’ eyes so when he woke up he would fall in love with Helena.  This mix up resulted in both men being in love with Helena, hating Hermia and Helena hating all three because she thought that they were playing a trick on her.  Let me catch my breath.

Puck took the opportunity to create a monster for Titania to fall in love with by changing Bottom’s head into an ass’s.  She fell head over heels in love with him even if he thought it very strange.  Let me just explain the role of the six tradesmen in the play.  They were to perform a play within the play, ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’, which is about two lovers who were forbidden to meet by their families, this Greek play became the inspiration for Romeo and Juliet.  We can see that they would have fitted into today’s society quite well as they didn’t want to upset the ladies and decided to say a prologue at the beginning of the play to warn them that the sword fights were not real and that nobody would really get hurt and that the lion wasn’t a lion but a person.  This of course reveals the plot of the play and gives us a sense of how plays were put on in the sixteenth century.  There is an air of pantomime about the whole thing because women very rarely acted and their parts were played by men in masks.  I think that this element is Shakespeare’s way of letting people in the future understand how plays were staged and this will obviously determine how my play will be staged.

I think I still have half of the play to read before I can complete my research so will let you digest this post before I tell you more about this project.

I have had this blog in mind for months now and haven’t posted because I  find the idea of thinking of cool and highly effective things to say very daunting.  I have no problems writing stories and scripts then rereading them and turning them in to puppet shows.  But what exactly to write on this blog perplexes me.  My business is eight months old and I have discovered that my customer base is actually national because I have been hired by The British Toy and Hobby Association, which is a London-based business to run a Princess Tale Party that was a prize in a competition in Haverigg.  Also I have had bookings from other parts of the country from people who are planning on having their weddings in the beautiful Lake District and require entertainment and childcare during the speeches part of the wedding breakfast.

I am completely aware that I have to improve my presence on-line because all of my customers have found me as a result of searching the internet and not because they saw an advert in a publication.  I am in the process of improving my website with my customer base in mind.  My customers fall into three main groups; nursery schools, parents of children between the ages of three to seven wanting fairytale themed parties and finally brides wanting to organise entertainment for children in their wedding.

I have decided to employ assistants using a supply agency, this means that the teaching assistants have already been vetted and all of the red tape has been covered so all I need is employers insurance.  From a parent’s perspective it means that their children will be under the supervision of qualified and experienced staff who are able to put their child’s safety first.  I am employing teaching assistants because we are a semi educational company and all of our productions and activities stem from the early years work.  All performance, stories and activities have been planned by me.  It is time-consuming but it means that I can change and adapt the work I have done to suit different needs.

Below is a photograph of the BTHA party – please note that we didn’t provide the balloons or the food just the smiles and entertainment.  The party was three hours long and started with a performance of my puppet show, ‘The Princess’s Tooth’ the children and the parents thoroughly enjoyed participating in the performance and so did I.  A puppet making activity followed and the first half of the party was rounded off by me reading ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ to the children, who were very enthusiastic and wanted to contribute.  After the children ate their party tea it was time for the disco, which involves making the children move and jump around as much as possible and playing various party games, traditional and new.  The party ended with pass the parcel – children still love opening the layers.  A fantastic days was had by all and I was buzzing with excitement after the party. Image

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January 2012

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