Puppet Origin Stories: Cat
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.
There were two cat puppets used in the 2009 production of Cat, Lost and Found. The first cat had a more complex and nuanced build, and the second was constructed in a simpler manner. As the director and playwright of the production, Oliver Chong, who also built the puppets, knew the movement vocabulary, as well as the degree of manipulation that was required of the puppeteer. He could thus use this to better understand which joints would experience the most wear and tear, and reinforce this joint while building.
The script had specifically indicated that the cat was white, and because the production was meant to transcend the constraints of reality, he decided on a quirky yet warped, twisted yet surreal design for it.
The joints of the cat were made of aluminium and hard plastic, because they are light, durable, and easy to maintain. Oliver’s previous experience as an interior designer and toy maker meant that he was confident in using materials, and was certain this combination would work even though such materials were not conventionally used as puppet joints. Due to his understanding of anatomy, he also knew which joints could be adapted for which body part. For the cat, he used the ball joint from a magic clean duster for its head to make the turning more smooth.
The body of the first cat was shaped using wire mesh, and covered using cloth mache. This meant the puppet would be quite heavy compared to the conventional builts in the Finger Players that were mostly made from foam and papier mache. However, this was necessary as the violence in its manipulation would damage styrofoam. The second cat however, was fashioned entirely out of sponge.
Alvin & Sonya
Koh Beng Liang
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