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AO 34 Editorial

Even the most cursory glance at our News Special on puppetry at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe will reveal that there are very many shows being presented that include puppetry or animation, to a greater or lesser extent. These range from established puppet-theatre companies like Puppet State and Blind Summit to the very many companies that include some form of puppetry as one element of their theatrical ‘tool box’.

It is, of course, great to see that there is so much puppetry out there, but it does beg the question: is this puppetry performed with any level of skill? And is this skill necessary and important?

I am not one of those who feel that you need to be a trained expert in anything that you attempt onstage, and think that anyone should feel free to experiment with theatrical form, using any means they wish. But you can’t deny that whatever artforms and practices you choose to embrace, once you move past the first stages of trying out new ways of working, and make a commitment to understanding the tools that you are choosing to use, then a bit of training comes in handy!  After all, you wouldn’t imagine that you could perform a trapeze act, or dance a tango, without understanding the form you were using – so why is puppetry any different? Bringing a puppet into the onstage environment is one thing: animating it successfully another.

So what are your options if you want to be a puppeteer, rather than someone who just dabbles occasionally? What training and professional development opportunities are out there? In her article on this subject, Penny Francis outlines the current options in the UK that are open to novice puppeteers.

So, once you’ve had some training and gained some experience, what next? The Puppet Centre Trust has been working hard over recent years both to provide opportunities for further professional development, and to create events which allow emerging artists or companies to show work in its early stages. One such event was Puppetry Snax 2, held at Tara Arts in London on 2 July 2011, and reported on in this edition by one of the participants, Isobel Smith.

It’s a big issue for  emerging and developing artists: where and how to show work? For Pif-Paf, the choice is to take their work into the great outdoors. The company’s co-directors Eleanor Hooper and Pete Gunson explain in their article about the company just what has driven their decision to perform within the context of street arts, celebratory theatre, and outdoor performance in public spaces rather than the indoor venue circuit.

We hope you find something to interest you in this edition of Animations, and as always welcome your feedback. If you have any thoughts on this edition’s content, or any suggestions for future editions, please do get in contact!

Dorothy Max Prior

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