Puppet Origin Stories: Bird Puppet

by fingerplayers

In 2020, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, we spoke to the Makers and Designers of the puppets we have in The Finger Players (TFP), to create the repository that is the Puppet Origin Stories – a humble effort to highlight the background, and the making and design history of these puppets. We hope that this can be a continued endeavour at TFP, and we hope that you can go on this journey with us.

Featured in The Spirits Play, 2015

This puppet was created for the 2015 production of The Spirits Play, directed by Oliver Chong. Shadow puppetry was a vocabulary that the company had been familiar with since the late 90s, and though it was used in this production, Oliver had specifically wanted this bird to be between reality and projected reality. In 2007, when Oliver was in the design team and was a a cast member for the production of First Family, he remembered using cut-outs to represent silhouettes, which allowed for the shadows to “pop out” as cutouts when needed, and then become shadows again when more depth and layers were needed. Oliver thus decided to use this design concept for the bird puppet featured in The Spirits Play.

The size of this puppet was created with the performance space in mind, and Oliver wanted it to look visually oppressive, but to still be light at the same time. Gadgets and joints also had to be built because he wanted the wings of the bird to be able to flap.

Rehearsal shot of The Spirits Play

The puppet was made from hard compressed foam, instead of wood, because it would have been too heavy. The joints were made from aluminium and there were two rods underneath each wing, to allow for a second puppeteer to manipulate it from behind the lead puppeteer. This puppet was also made with flat-packing in mind, and so the pegs were made detachable for easy packing.

Aluminium rod under joints

Maker’s Note: This puppet was featured again in the 2017 restage of The Spirits Play. However, because the production was in a bigger venue – the Victoria Theatre, the size was not as oppressive anymore, and the puppet was eventually used in a different manner.

Production shot of The Spirits Play
Production shot of The Spirits Play

Champion this puppet and its story today by making a donation HERE.