Training and Continuing Professional Development
Burkett Masterclass at Barbican, London - May 2004
A PCT /BITE Collaboration
the generally accepted sense of the term, a Masterclass
is an opportunity for a practitioner of good professional
standing in a particular art form to have a tutorial with
a master or mistress of his or her art. Thus, a great
violinist might be booked to hear some passages of music
played by a small number of carefully selected practitioners,
in order to suggest improvements in their technique or
interpretation. This would normally be in front of an
invited audience also wishing to gain from the tutorials.
Ronnie Burkett, one of the finest practitioners of the
art of puppetry in most of its aspects, was asked by the
Puppet Centre Trust, in collaboration with the Theatre
Department of the Barbican Arts Centre, to give a Masterclass
at the Pit Theatre, May 13th, whilst he was in London
performing Provenance for the Barbican International Theatre
Event (BITE) 2004.
agreed, and gave his services voluntarily, for which the
PCT is enormously grateful.
companies using a puppetry in their work agreed to show
some of their work to Ronnie and to talk to him about
their approach to making a show. The companies were Blind
Summit, Mishimou and the Little Angel/ Indefinite Articles
in the person of Steve Tiplady.
introduced the session - which benefited from an audience
of about 80 people with a special interest in the art
form, most of them practitioners or future practitioners
- with a talk in which they learned that Ronnie's prime
considerations at present are technique and exploring
a vocabulary of the puppet. After this, the three groups
gave a demonstration or description of their style, and
then talked with the Master about his reactions to these.
is no didact; his style is relaxed, warm and encouraging,
and the three sessions were interesting more in what he
had to say about his work and puppetry in general than
about teaching and improvement of what he was shown. Likewise,
the groups asked few questions which might have elicited
suggestions for improvement or a change of approach. It
was, as more than one spectator remarked, more An Audience
With... or a conversazione than a class.
majority of those attending enjoyed the afternoon. The
learning experience resided in Ronnie's talking about
his process and the way everyone has a different approach.
We discovered some of his pathways to his astonishing
shows, and saw him interact with other puppeteers. His
personality is extraordinarily warm and he is an excellent
'I found it constructive' says Steve Tiplady, 'I am sure
I will layer the things I heard into my own work'.
PCT's warm thanks to Ronnie Burkett - and to the staff
at the Barbican who could not have been more helpful.
details of our plans for training and professional development
in 2004 - 2005, contact the Puppet Centre Trust. Tel 020