I’ve been slack with blogs of late haven’t I? This past 18 months have had more breaks than a generic British builder doing a generic job for a generic rich person. Probably. Thing is, life is busy, and as well as it being busy, my hand that primarily types this (whilst I pretend to be a touch typer, its only in so much as I touch the keyboard to type. Both hands do have a role in such actions but one does more work than the other. There are issues in the workplace over divisions of responsibility), has been mostly occupied with being inside a puppet. Not sure if you’ve ever tried to type things with a puppet on your hands but this is what happens:
You see? Admittedly, that is what I was trying to write but y’know I am a professional puppeteer now. Sort of. But what I’m trying to say is that its bloody near impossible. So I didn’t blog. Does that excuse cut it? That I was too busy adding strings to my professional bow? I hate the term ‘adding strings to a bow’ as if you see it in the Archer sense then you just make a rather ineffective bow. You can’t fire more arrows just cos there are more strings as you wouldn’t have the accuracy needed and the tension would be harder to create. If you mean a bow as in a ribbon, then no one wants strings in their bow. If you mean a theatrical bow, then the only reason you’d need strings is if its marionettes doing a curtain call. I’m just saying, its a phrase of chumps. However that is what I’ve been doing, by working on a kids TV pilot that I can’t tell you much about but basically, I’m this chap:
His name is Burp and whilst I’d like to pretend I haven’t been typecast he appears to have a beard, like me, a tendency to want to eat everything, like me, be quite small and excitable, like me and generally quite windy, sadly like me. Due to the nature of the character and the show I have spent two days filming in the weirdest positions and the weirdest locations including inside a huge recycling bin, lying on a mattress in Clapham Junction and hidden under a desk on a moveable trolley in a charity shop. But despite an incredibly sore right arm and neck and back (just neck and back, not my right one. I neither have a wrong neck and back nor a left one for those that were concerned), it was two of the most fun days I’ve had in ages.
Puppeteering it turns out, isn’t easy. I totally thought you just popped your hand into a sock and there we go, make it chat. We’ve all done it haven’t we? Made a sock talk? Then drew a face on it? Blamed it for that fire that happened? Said it couldn’t have been you that started it as the burning stick was in ‘Rupert’s mouth’. No? Er……..Well its not that easy. You have to think about where your head is, where your arm is, how to mouth every word you say, where to look, how to move the puppet’s body and so much more. There were times when you’d have a puppet on each hand with both moving differently and times when the puppet had to grab or do something and those, my friends, were difficult ones.
Luckily, as well as myself, Nadia Kamil and Pippa Evans (who were both brilliant) we had a true master of the trade working with us, a man called Mak Wilson. Mak has done everything that I spent my childhood adoring. He worked on the Dark Crystal (I KNOW!), Labyrinth (I FRIKKIN KNOW! AND HE WAS HOGGLE! AND DAVID BOWIE BORROWED A BOOK FROM HIM AND NEVER GAVE IT BACK!), Return To Oz, Santa Claus the Movie (AS RUDOLPH!) and so many other things as well as training puppeteers for Sesame Street, Dinosaurs, working with the Henson team loads and generally having the sort of career 8 year old me would have had a total attack about. And the 30 year old me. Apart from all that and him being a truly lovely bloke, when he was puppeteering the puppet totally came alive. We would all just fixate on the puppet completely ignoring Mak being there, as though this mess of material and ping pong balls was as a real a creation as any of us. Again the 8 year old me probably would have died just watching some of the filming on the monitor. And the 30 year old very nearly did. It felt quite an honour to have him there being so patient and teaching three comedians who’d had, all in all, about 8 hours of practice.
Being in charge of a puppet was amazing too. Much like (and excuse the wank that will follow) doing mask work in theatre, having a puppet on your hand you feel like you can get away with anything. Its not you on the screen, its your little furry friend – tee hee hee – and so the mucking about between scenes was brilliant. The sound man, Lee, found me at one point, tucked away under the desk in the shop just making Burp mutter to himself as he was doing things. They weren’t filming, I was just totally carried away. Mak asked us at the end of a very very long day yesterday if it had put us off puppeteering for life. It should have done. I was covered in washing powder, I had stale pizza fall on me, I had to hide under smelly socks, and yet, if this program gets commissioned, I would leap at the chance to do it all again immediately. Or at least my puppet would, as I’ve sort of learnt how to do that now. Although it does mean you’d get a lot more blogs that read like this:
A few other notes:
On Monday night I went to see superb musician and chum Sam Duckworth of Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly fame perform at the Borderline in the West End. He was just doing songs from his new album under his own name, replete with some brilliant political viewpoints and lovely stories about each song. It was easily one of the best gigs I’ve seen this year, and I’ve seen quite a lot. If you don’t know his work, then check it out then go see him on tour. He’s a brilliantly passionate performer and if you don’t walk away from the song ‘Clementine’ feeling all warm inside then you are broken. FACT.
This has become my new favourite thing, thanks to Jim Smallman telling me about it on Saturday. Watch it all. Now. Rhombus!
I really want to go down to the Occupy London Stock Exchange camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral and show my support this week for the incredible bunch of people – bankers, civil servants, teachers – that have been camping there since Saturday. Sadly this week won’t allow for it and while I’d like to pass up earning money to protest against the global situation we are currently in, I just can’t. But I just want to say that I have the utmost respect for those that are there and they are the sort of people that show there’s still hope for humanity. Amazing work.