June & Goblins

June was a helluva a month.

We were privileged enough to get rehearsal space down London from the wonderful people at The Little Angel Theatre. We had a new idea for our next children’s show and aside from puppet making we needed rehearsal rooms and the opportunity to perform to a test audience.

We worked solid for five days. We went from a skeleton of a play to a full script, something we had way more time for with ‘Caliban in the Rock Pool’. Aside from line learning the most difficult part was the final day: we had the final puppets, the costume, the tent, the script – time to rehearse.

On Friday the 8th of June we presented ‘Goblins!’ to our test audience. This play follows Professor Elanor J Cottingly who has set out to prove faeries and goblins exist once and for all. With nothing but her tent, maps, and her precious thesis book she prepares for the eagerly awaited faerie migration. Suddenly an entire faerie court invade her tent, her camping chair, and the Queen takes her thesis book as her new cushion. Professor Elanor J Cottingly must now compete in the three challenges set by the Queen so she can get her thesis book back!

Overall, we’re all proud of our work. For a research and development period it went well, and we got some excellent feedback from our test audience. We’re incredibly thankful for The Little Anel Theatre, that week in London was a terrific learning experience for all of us. Not that they need promoting look them up online or offline, they do some incredible children’s theatre.

Before we share promotional photos and all that we have one final hurdle: clothes for our puppets. This is a family show after all which means our Queen, Sir Alban (the Queen’s Champion), and the mischievous goblin need some clothes. We were also encouraged to figure out a brighter way of presenting the faerie court so I’m bracing myself for lots of crepe and sugar paper.

With the summer coming up we’re putting our thinking caps on for the next academic year (we want to hit up more schools with our workshops), future projects (Avalon and other things), and getting to perform our work across the Midlands and beyond.

So on with July, and August, and the whatever summer we have left. You’ll hear from us soon.

Here be goblins.

June Adventures

2018 is the year Bootleg Puppets MAKES THINGS!

While we’ve taken a minor break from Avalon, our first puppet show for adults, this June we’re lucky enough to spend a working week with the Little Angel Theatre. We’ll be stationed in one of their rehearsal rooms working on our next children’s show – Goblins!

In this show you’ll follow an esteemed professor of faeology who has been sent away on a research mission for her university to research faeries, goblins, and other fantastical creatures. After the Professor sets up her tent and begins to settle in for the night goblins and a faerie court invade her tent, the Queen of the troupe stealing her research papers as a cushion. The Professor must defeat the faerie courts champion to get her research back or else the University will never believe her.

We met the Artistic Director of the Little Angel Theatre at the artists meet and greet in the Tunbridge Wells Puppet Festival and we’re incredibly grateful to be given this opportunity to build our set and puppets, rehearse, and show off our new play by the end of the week.

Stay tuned for more goblin fun!

Time For An Update!

This Saturday marks two weeks since we sent off an Arts Council Application to request funding for our research and development period for our first adult puppet show ‘Avalon’.

Quick fire questions!

What’s ‘Avalon’? – Our first adult puppet show, suitable for those aged 15 and up. We’ve used the King Arthur myths as a basis to look at British identity, memory and time, and what’s really real and whether that matters when we’re old and grey.

What’s research and development? – Lovingly known as ‘r&d’ research and development is a mix of rehearsals and editing. We have a script of ‘Avalon’ that has only had three sets of eyes over it, so we want to have actors mess around with the text, help us find out what works, and what needs improving. As a puppet company we also need to figure out what our puppets need to do (in the text and how they physically work.)

What’s the Arts Council? – Arts Council England is a brilliant organisation that help artists (stand alone, companies, groups, museums, troupes, libraries, etc.) financially. Anyone who needs their assistance need to fill out an application form which isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds. Find out more about them here.

The waiting time for applications requesting less that £15k is six weeks, we are approaching week two.

A lot of what we do behind the scenes is admin (as detailed in our previous blog post) and this is perhaps our biggest admin task to date. At least for now.

We have a couple of meetings coming up and a lot of planning to do in case the Arts Council say no. We have a lot of things nailed down for our r&d period: rehearsal space provided by the wonderful Old Joint Stock Theatre and Bar (as part of their Open Doors project), rehearsal space with the brilliant folk over at Coventry University, and we have Bootleg’s company funds to go towards puppet construction. But we want to do more, which is why we’ve asked for funding – the big thing is paying people for their time.

We have everything crossed but we’re fully prepared to make a plan B. Maybe even plans through C – J.

So watch this space, here be dragons.

The Joys of Admin

You know when you’re younger and grown up’s ask “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and kids give you an answer like “Firefighter” or “Doctor” or “Rock Star” because those are jobs they’ve seen (or think they’ve seen) or jobs they (think) they understand. Well, I feel like working with Bootleg Puppets would be a great lesson for anyone who ever says they want to be an artist.

People say that if you ever want to get used to rejection, become an actor. Having done bits of acting at University I know this feeling. But that’s a little different to Bootleg Puppets. Here we’re all actors, puppeteers, directors, writers. Sure, some more than others. Tim is the only one writing the Arthur script but I know that if anyone had a problem with a phrasing of a line or scene we’d work on it collaboratively. We all have different skills which is essential for companies like us.

Which leads me onto my skill: admin.

No child ever wants to be an administrator. And sure, I get a kick out of it, in every application form, cover letter, budget sheet, etc. I get to talk about:

  1. Why Bootleg Puppets is great.
  2. Why our show is great.

And

  1. Why you need us at your festival.

Anyone who’s spent long periods of time applying for spaces at University or Job Hunting will know that there’s a structure to it all. First paragraph is the introduction, second is the content of the show, third is why the show would fit at the festival, fourth is the budget and acknowledgement of the hard times the arts scene has taken, etc.

It’s a skill. It’s a damn good skill to have for a company like us. If you talk to any kids who want to be artists prepare them, in the most child friendly way, for the administrative tasks ahead!

The only down side of course, is that it’s not the most photogenic of tasks. We couldn’t post on Facebook about this because it would just a picture of me look stressed at a word document. Plus it’s not exactly cricket to talk about events we’re applying for before our application has been accepted.

But fun admin things are happening. Promise!

Goblins

About a month or so ago the four of us (myself, Tim, Becky, and Tom) gathered in a café and began plotting the script for our next children’s show.

WHAT – I hear you cry – BUT YOU HAVEN’T EVEN FINISHED THE ARTHUR SCRIPT YET?

I hear your cries, dear reader, and you’ll be happy to know that Bootleg Puppets has two strands. We love working with children and families, all of us had incredibly positive creative experiences in our formative years and would love to provide something similar for young people now.

We also want to create puppet theatre for adults, the public pretty much started getting excited about puppet theatre for 12 years + since War Horse which (as brilliant as that show is) is frustrating.

Anyone can enjoy puppet theatre, is has no age limit.

Our adult show that we’re working on is based around the Arthurian Legends (think Big Fish / Pan’s Labyrinth in narrative structure, but more Bootleg). Read more about it here.

But our next children’s show which, if I’m honest, we might not get cracking on until 2018, involves Goblins. And faeries. And a Professor of Faeology.

We first started looking at the structure of Caliban in the Rock Pool. You have a protagonist who talks/interacts with the audience. Things go wrong. They try to make it right. Things go right. The end. The one thing that we did differently with Caliban is that the protagonist, played by Tim, took on the role of the story teller as in literally telling the story of the Crab King, and as the Wizard within the actual story.

With our next kids show, working title: Goblins, our Professor of Faeology isn’t necessarily telling a story. She’s been sent away from her University to conduct very important research, which is where (of course) things begin to go wrong. Personally, I’m rather excited as I get to be the non-puppeteering lead, and Tim will get to get his teeth into some puppeteering!

At the moment though it feels like we’re spinning plates. We’re working on our adult show, and the subsequent funding and admin surrounding that, we’re trying to get more gigs performing Caliban, we’re trying to get workshops sorted, and we’ve got this on the backburner to start in 2018.

It feels good to be busy.

Typing… Typing… Typing

Hi, Daisy Edwards (managing director, social media god, and performer) here!

If you haven’t been following our Facebook or Twitter (maybe get on that) you won’t know that we’re working on our first adult puppet show. And by ‘we’ I mean Tim, our writer. Thus far our writing process, for both Caliban in the Rock Pool and this show, have been Tim burrowing away, typing furiously until we get a brilliant first draft.

So, what’s the show about? Well, we’re taking the Arthurian Legends and tangling them up with the memories, or misremembering’s, of an elderly man in a care home. We reckon it’ll be suitable for those aged 15+. We get to use swear words. It’s really different to our previous stuff. Assuming everything goes right we’d get to perform it a few times around Birmingham, maybe do a Midlands tour, maybe do a UK tour! But in order to do all that, and more, we need that vital thing: money!

We want to approach the Arts Council for funding. I’ve had a few conversations with Midlands based creatives (shout out to Bohdan Piasecki, Noctium, and Paul O’Donnell) over the past 6 months or so. One thing I can say, if you’re ever in a situation and you’re worried about asking for advice – DON’T BE! I know that’s a lot easier said than done but the advice from these guys has been incredibly valuable. If you ever need advice do a quick Facebook or Google search for the creative companies in your area, offer to buy them a hot drink, and ask them questions. That’s one of the great things about creating theatre and art, you get to share it with all sorts of people.

We’re still in the very early stages of contacting the Arts Council, I’ve requested a meeting with the Theatre Relationship Manager. So, assuming everything goes well, I get to have a productive phone call or coffee with someone really important to the application process. We’ve never done this before which is rather exciting.

But in order for this all to work, for us to get the money from the Arts Council, for us to audition and pay actors to take part in the research and development process, to host a small scratch night, to perform the whole thing across the country, we need a complete script. That’s one of the reasons these blog posts have been a little sparse, who would have time to write a blog post when you’ve got an hour long puppet play to write?

The answer: me.

You’ll be hearing from me in the future, on a more regular basis. If you’re not following us on our Facebook and Twitter profiles get on it, once the script is complete prepare yourselves for a very excited team photo!