3 months in the workshop and finally it was time for the big babies Debris Girl and Table boy to debut on stage in No Disaster On This Land. For me, preparing, repairing, going down with Covid and then bumping in passed by in a blur. Then, The Maker’s Forum came and went, and soon it was The Maker’s Workshop.
Participants in the workshop designed and made their own large puppet structures and were the first pool of people to test the modularity of the system. There were new discoveries in ways to use the joints, as well as revealing shortcomings when some other combinations are needed.
A new discovery was an overhead puppet that swivels and rotates freely, giving it a sense of life while easily breaking away the human shape. It also highlighted that with mindful joint selection and sensitive manipulating, flexibility and life can be achieved in a puppet which uses only a simple configuration of few puppet structure sections.
A shortcoming of the modular puppet system is the lack of locking units to hold bones at certain angles to each other, and spacer units of varying lengths. Another participant wanted to create a perpendicular X as a base to hold her attachments. The existing joints chosen to lock these 2 bones at 45 degrees to each other were overly convoluted. We went with a cable tie ultimately although that isn’t considered part of the modular system.
Now, at the end of the lab, TML in general feels like a microcosm of life. How to pace yourself when the process is long. When to take breaks and when to push beyond what was thought impossible. 9 months feels long enough to almost birth something unprecedented, yet short enough that the finish is still rough around the edges.
Although the programme has ended it doesn’t mean this adaptable exoskeleton is coming to an end too. No, this is just the beginning, the start of applying the learnings into other shows, of continuing the debate of modularity vs bespoke, of finding new ways to build and finish puppets.
If there was a lingering regret, it’d be TMP. I took on too many other jobs and TMP ended up being sandwiched between bump ins, which resulted in scant preparation time for Forum and Workshop and the hurried blur. This also meant little time to sit with the product and breathe with it.
I’d like to thank the team who is so forthcoming in stepping up where I lack – Daniel and Myra, consultants who are so generous in sharing their knowledge; Li Sann, Oliver, Peilin, NDOTL production and creative team who gamely indulged in my fleshy fantasies.
What’s next? A LONG BREAK (of two weeks)