London Broken Puppet Adventure – Day Four

Day Four – Polka Theatre, Puppet Planet and The long Journey Home

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So, we couldn’t really say goodbye to London without ticking off a couple of VIP (Very Important Places/People!) destinations on our way back through to Clapham Junction. Okay, so we may have taken a small detour via a tram to South Wimbledon…

We popped in to see the lovely folkes at Polka – Because they’ve done, in a nutshell, what we hope to do one day, and have a brilliant theatre venue bursting with over-excitable little people, and loads of creative things to keep them and their grown-ups amused. We had tickets to see ‘What to do when you find a Dinosaur’, which let’s face it, is something everybody needs to know!

We were greeted by the very lovely Chloe and Louisa, and had a lovely long chat about Polka’s work, Broken Puppet’s plans for the future, and how childishly excited we were to finally be visiting Polka! We left with an open invitation to return, and to make contact with their Creative Learning Department and Artistic Director in the meantime, to discuss potential future hook ups for training and sharing good practice.

The show itself was very true to its children’s entertainment genre, with a lot of singing and dancing, a fair bit of nonsense, strong, comical character performances and a few interactions which the children really enjoyed. As did we.

Of course, our favourite part was the giant dinosaur, which was essentially a huge wooden sculpture that had been reconfigured to be animated and operated as a puppet. It was not dissimilar in its design and construction to the aesthetic we’ve been developing for ‘The Bone Cracker’, so it was great to see how this worked on a larger scale, and how effectively this model could become a living, breathing presence on the stage. It confirmed our hunch that this was both a visually appealing and practically achievable production design.

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The space at Polka is filled with cool stuff (Photos above) – A giant window display that is full of old props, puppets and costumes – it looks like the kind of place you’d want to climb into and get lost inside to play. Exactly the right atmosphere for a children’s area!

They also have an adventure theatre space and the auditorium that we saw the show in, along with a great little cafe, where we stopped for the best brunch of our trip before heading off to Clapham that afternoon.

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The final stop of our trip was one that seems to be becoming an annual pilgrimage of sorts, to visit the lovely Lesley at Puppet Planet; which to us, is a treasure trove of all things puppet theatre related!

The sheer number of puppets of all shapes, sizes and technicalities that she has collected is just brilliant, and we could have happily stayed a lot longer exploring all of them, had we not had to rush off to catch our train home. The photos above show some of our favourites, but this time we only adopted 3, due to the limited space in our suitcases, and the amount of our budget we’d already blown on our posh chisels!

Lesley is an experienced puppeteer and such a wonderful host, welcoming us with tea and biscuits and giving us free reign to nose around and play with all the puppets in her studio/shop, as well as having a good old yarn about everything we’re all trying to do, where we’ve come from and how we might potentially join forces for some work in the not too distant future…a very inspiring meeting of minds, and a fab way to end our trip.

We feel we’ve very much met a kindred spirit in Lesley, who has even invited us back in December to celebrate Puppet Planets 12th birthday, and perhaps – if we’ve got some new work created by then – to share and perform it at this very special event. We’re going to do everything we can to raise the money needed to do that, and in the meantime we will certainly be keeping in touch with Lesley and our new friends at Polka Theatre.

Finally, it was time to head home, and the train was packed. Luckily we managed to find seats and eventually were able to sit at the same table, where we eagerly brainstormed plans for ensuring the success and inspiration of our trip will not go to waste once we get back to Broken Puppet HQ.

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Clare’s phone, notebook and even a few over-flow napkins now contain the productivity plan for Broken Puppet’s next few months, and we’ll be back in creative development, script writing and puppet making mode now up until Christmas; we’ve got 3 projects all being developed simultaneously over the next 6 to 9 months, and we’re aiming to launch our community programmes next spring/summer, and our theatre in education / creative learning programmes next autumn.

We’ll get onto that just as soon as our exhausted bodies and minds have recovered from our Epic London Broken Puppet Adventure. We hope you’ve enjoyed following our blog, even though it has taken a week to get it all uploaded!

Look out for puppet making tutorials and blogs which will be up next…!

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