Choreographing Breath and Thought

I have a unified theory of puppet performance that I’ve taken to calling “Six Principles of Great Puppetry”. It’s been slowly simmering in my brain for at least as long as I’ve been writing this blog. I’ve written some posts over the years that discuss various aspects of it, which was inspired by Disney’s famous 12 basic principles of animation and consists of six key elements:

  1. Mechanics and movement
  2. Articulation (lip sync)
  3. Thought and focus
  4. Rhythm
  5. Character
  6. Staging

The UK’s National Theatre recently produced a pair of interesting videos that deal with two of those elements that I think are especially important and often under-utilized by puppeteers. The first deals with breath – which is an element of rhythm – and is embedded above. The second addresses the concept of thought and can be watched below:

These videos were shot during rehearsals for Or You Could Kiss Me, a co-production between the National Theatre and South Africa’s acclaimed Handspring Puppet Company.

Breath and thought are two elements of puppet performance that Handspring always puts an emphasis on in all of its performances; breath and rhythm are the reasons why the horses in Warhorse seem so real. These two videos provide a brief, but very valuable glimpse in to Handspring’s process.

If you’d like to learn more about Handspring and how they work, I highly recommend ordering a copy of  the excellent Handspring Puppet Company book. It’s available to order online through David Krut Publishing.

Videos via Spirits Dancing.

27/4/14 Update: The links on the National Theatre’s web site that this post originally linked to have been removed, so I’ve updated the article with embedded versions of the videos from YouTube.