Week 4 – Characterisation and Shadow work

Claire Coache worked on getting the performers to develop their individual Frown town characters. We revisited the ‘silly walk’ exercise and each performer needed to decide which body part should be used to lead the rest of their bodies for their own Frown town character. This was layered with the LeCoq’s seven state of tension exercise. Both these exercises enabled the performers to make creative choices and find their own embodied Frown town character. Performers were then asked to add their characterisation to their already created choreography. It is fascinating to see how the different techniques add layer upon layer of detail to the choreography and characters. The choreography was first developed by myself  using Laban’s movement theories in mind, yet LeCoq’s techniques have brought a different aspect to the choreography and enriched it. The beauty of collaborating with people who bring different skills and techniques to a performance project!

Creating the shadow puppetry section for the journey between Happy town and Frown town was full of experimentation – experimenting with lighting options, characters and shapes.

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A morning with the Hereford College of Arts Music students was spent sharing creative material we have created so far and listening to music that the Music students have created in response to the story so far.

In two separate creative spaces we both created a mountain goat that Pim and Tiddle will meet on their journey of the mountain, which was a delightful realisation…we clearly are all having similar ideas.

Next week we will be working further on Happy Town and we look forward to continue to work on the Shadow puppetry in the rehearsal room together with the Music students.


Week 3 – creating performance material

During this weeks rehearsal and development process for A bottle of happiness we have been preparing for the shadow puppet rehearsal, which is scheduled for next week. The shadow puppetry will be used for the three journey’s that Pim and Tiddle make over the mountain range that separates Happy Town from Frown town. We decided what the weather may be like on either side of the mountains and what characters Pim and Tiddle may meet along the way. A mountain goat will definitely be met.

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Claire Coache – Artistic Director for Open Sky – also joined us for our rehearsal. Claire got the performers to explore their physicality using the LeCoq method, with a particular focus on creating the bodies of characters for Happy Town. By using one body parts to lead the rest of our bodies the performers identified what kind of character the body represented, from clumsy to curious to confident – a whole array of different embodied characters were found.

The rehearsal was filled with lots of laughter, as you would expect to find in Happy town.

Textile students also joined the rehearsal room to develop colour and design ideas and to observe the character creation process.


A further task we managed to work on this week was a smooth transition from the Happy town set to the Frown town set – transitions are always incredibly important to me and finding ways of making these slick requires rehearsal time.

Within 10 seconds we manage to transform the stage with just a few simple movement.

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Week 2 – Creating Frown town and costume

The BA Performing Arts students have now been introduced to Pippa Goodhart’s story ‘A bottle of Happiness’, by Tiny Owl Publishing.

The contrast between the two different countries within the book were drawn out and the rich country was quickly named ‘frown town’ by the students. It is important to us to make the different places very clear within the performance and we are doing this through costume, set, movement and music, with some inspiration drawn from the illustrations by Ehsan Abdollahi.

In Frown time space is limited, like when one is in a city – no eye contact or physical contact is made between individuals, people are on their mobile phones. The actors will be wearing suits and black shades. The set is grey and placed to allow little room for movement. The movements that the actors make are monotonous and angular, moving on straight lines and only able to move forward, backwards or side to side and never coming into direct contact with any of the fellow frown towners.

Frown town 2

We played with this idea and used various different music to find a beat that would work best for the scene, as this beat will be passed on to the music students as a basis to create the ‘frown town soundtrack’. We found that using music that was electronic would suit, as it would imitate the technology that the actors are engaging with on stage – their mobile phones. The beat was found to be around 120 beats per minute.

We discussed how all of ‘Frown town’ could then be contrasted in happy town, by setting the set up so there is far more space to move, actors engaging with one another through eye and physical contact, laughing, sharing, dancing and singing with one another. In terms of movement the contrast will be seen in curved lines and circles and freedom in movement, rather than the rigidity displayed in Frown town. The set will be colourful to match the patch work costumes of happy town. Happy town will be worked on in the weeks to come.


Finally this week we had BA Textile students joining us to commence the process of deciding upon and making costumes for the people of happy town. Every actor was given a base garment and textile students will be adding to this to create the happy town costumes for the performers.

Costume selection Happy town

A bottle of happiness – week 1

This year’s Hay Festival project will again be created in collaboration with Tiny Owl Publishing. The publishing company have shared their book ‘A bottle of happiness’ written by Pippa Goodhart and inspiring illustrations by Ahsan Abdollahi with us to develop a children’s theatre performance that will be performed at the Hay Festival on 29th May 2019 in the Starlight tent (tickets to go on sale soon).

To create the performance the BA Performing Arts team, has teamed up with Artistic Director – Claire Coache – from Open Sky Theatre. Claire will be offering the Performing Arts students advice, feedback and direction throughout the development of the ‘Bottle of happiness’ production.

We have also teamed up with Contemporary Design Craft student Lilly Rishworth-Huppert to create a puppet and Ferel Smith to create the set.

Lilly has already been working hard on her dog puppet design, which will represent Pim in the performance.

Puppet mould


And she has kept us up-to-date with her progress – from the moulding of the head of Pim to the decorating of Pim, which has been heavily inspired by Abdollahi’s illustrations.

Puppet being decorated.jpeg

Music students are also collaborators on the project and we are hoping for live music to be taking place during the performance.

For our first rehearsal and development day we have Frantic Assembly running a full day workshop for movement inspiration that will feed into the project.


The Little Black Fish – final days of rehearsal and performance

Busy, busy, busy….are the three words to describe the last couple of weeks of our Little Black Fish process.

The final rehearsals involved tweaking the ending of the performance and adding further material into already created sections to give the little old lady a narrative throughout the performance that would draw the audience in and allow them to relate to the story.

The rehearsal in the Starlight Tent at the Hay Festival gave us the opportunity to further tweak our created material and identify any areas that we would need to further consider in regards to the space that we performing in.

The preview performance at the Hereford College of Arts on 24th May, gave us the opportunity to identify any areas that we would need to develop in the remaining rehearsal time available to us, before the premier of the Little Black Fish. Feedback from Performing Arts and Music students and staff was useful and allowed the performers to be aware of points within the performance that the audience may react to.

During the Hay Festival performance the show started off with a child from the member of audience being so involved in the performance from the outset that he got off his chair to help the little old lady puppet reach for the ball of wool that represented the little black fish. A very beautiful moment.

Realising the importance the story of the little black fish holds in publisher Delaram’ s life and seeing her and her team from Tiny Owl publishing company being moved by the performance meant the world to the performers, Purvin (Aritistic Director from The Fetch) and myself.

After the performance we were thrilled to help Tiny Owl Publishing  with the 50th Birthday Celebration for ‘the little black fish’ book. 50 years since it was first published. The children at the Festival got to walk around and follow the puppets and everyone enjoyed a fantastic slice of cake.

A fantastic project that has involved so many people from various disciplines come together


Little Black Fish Rehearsal Day 6

Hereford College of Arts students from the Contemporary Design Craft course with the support from Purvin, Artistic Director from The Fetch have completed two big puppets for our performance at the Hay Festival.

Jess (CDC student) has developed the head of the little old lady puppet, who will be representing the old fish of the little black fish story. Here Purvin is showing Jess the next steps that are needed in the making of her puppet.

The crab and the pelican were operated today by Performing Arts student Tommy Ryan. In this process the costume ideas developed…the puppeteers and performers will be dressed in shipmen outfits from the past.

Spending the morning experimenting and exploring allowed us to find movements for the puppets and develop ideas. Wool is going to play a big role throughout the entire telling of the story. Improvising with the wool has allowed us to develop the little old ladies background story. (The lady puppet in the photo below is a stand-in for now until Jess has completed her puppet).

She wakes to find herself in the midst of wool balls. She is unsure where she is, but soon sees stories in the balls of wool and chooses to tell the story of the black wool ball…that obviously represents the story of the little black fish.

Narration will take place throughout the performance, however where and at what points will be decided and developed throughout the rehearsals in May.

The opening scene was worked on and narration points were identified. It was a joy to welcome four Hereford College of Arts BA(hons) Popular Music students into the process, who straight away created melodies and sound scapes to the opening scene we had been working on. It is always fascinating to me how sound adds so much to the telling of a story.

The music students were then also introduced to the crab and pelican and sound and music ideas were improvised with and discussed and work on these will continue throughout the process. The creation of the sound is a two way conversation between puppeteer who is responding to the sound and the musicians responding to the actions of the puppeteer. Very organic way of working.

Working with Purvin is a joy and his creativity and attention to detail is inspiring. I very much look forward to commencing our rehearsal phase…I just have to wait a few weeks. In the meantime I will be busy sourcing furniture items needed for the set and more wool! (if you have any spare wool that is keen to perform at the Hay Festival please do get in touch!)

Until the next time.

The little Black Fish Project Day 5 – First character complete

The ‘Beast from the East’ and storm Emma meant that my Friday was an unusual one. Instead of going into College and teaching my Performing Arts degree students I was stuck at home – literally snowed in.

I managed to get several administrative tasks done in connection with the Little Black Fish project and I realised that I am communicating with well over 20 people to make this project come together, from the Tiny Owl Publishing Company, to the Hay Festival, to the Fetch Theatre company, to communicating with at least 4 Course Leaders from various courses, as well as the Marketing team at Hereford College of Arts, to the individual students who are involved in the project and who are currently making the various characters for our performance.

Looking at the character list and who is making which character ‘the neighbour fish’ is one character that has currently not been allocated to anyone. The neighbour fish was envisaged by Purvin and myself as a wool ball that is in the process of being knitted into a black sock. This would make the unfinished sock still have the 3 or 4 knitting needles stuck in it. Given that the neighbour fish isn’t a particularly pleasant character we thought that the knitting needles could make the little black unfinished sock look quite fierce.

My mother is great at knitting socks and currently visiting me from Germany. With the snow also having her stuck in the house what better way of spending your time than knitting a sock?

Sadly I only found a small ball of wool in the house, so I contacted my lovely neighbour and found that she indeed did have some wool available.




A quick visit (after spending a good half an hour wrapping up warm and finding a method of transportation) meant that the work on the ‘neighbour fish’ could begin.




A couple of hours later…here is the first complete character for the Little Black Fish performance.