Puppets for Refugees 4

Shadow Puppets at Khora

The Khora community centre for refugees a great place to run activities: plenty of folk around to come and join in – not just children, but adult refugees, volunteers and passer-by’s. I started by making a shadow puppet screen by taking a large cardboard box lid and sticking the pillow case in a cut-out window and we made puppets from the card I discovered in the basement. The building used to be a printers. The redundant off-set litho printer still stands at the entrance to Khora

People love to help make good things happen

I started designing a pop-up screen based on a camping tent. Something that would be light-weight and compact; portable and easy to clean; durable and effective. Sharing my ideas soon got things started. Valeria donated the remnants of her orange pop-up tent, which we hacked – it worked well, but it was just a bit too orange!

orange tent puppets

James lent us his amazing lamp – things were developing quickly. Javid kindly made us a wonderful wooden puppet theatre frame which was a vast improvement on what we’d been using. As we were upgrading our kit, Spyros called in, watched curiously, left and the next day returned with a couple of metres of white Lycra for the screen. It worked a treat. A coat of white emulsion and our new screen was ready for decorating. Over the next few days, children as young as two gathered round and applied some artistic input: drawing animals and birds and muddy smears that transformed into colourful patterns. After three sessions we had a beautiful illustrated work of art and Khora now has its’ own shadow puppet screen.

kids painting

Next we needed a show!

There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly

By this time Robin, Kitti and me had been running a few workshops together. Getting along great and sharing ideas of forming a puppet collective  with our own name, ‘The Travelling Shadow Puppets’ We discussed various stories and researched possible folk and fairy tales we could use, when I sprung up and suggested ‘There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly!’

The children had already been drawing and making some lovely shadow puppets of animals, so the brief to make a fly; spider; bird; cat; dog; goat; cow and horse; of course, came easy. In fact, we had several of some animals, goats being very popular. That night, I made the old lady and cut out individual letters for ‘The Travelling Shadow Puppets’. We didn’t rehearse, but we had a plan: From behind the screen, I would operate the old lady and break into song. Robin would then interrupt me and ask the audience, “Does anybody know what ‘fly’ is in Greek/’spider’ in Arabic…?” Someone would call out and I would continue with the song. Kitti was to call the children behind the screen to puppeteer the animals in turn. I perched down behind the screen, clutching my ‘old lady’, looking back at Kitti, waiting for my cue. Marie-Lisa our Greek teacher, flew in first with her fly-puppet. Javid held the LED lamp in position, Robin introduced the show and we were off… Before I knew it the back of the screen was a frenzy of children with their puppets. The old lady gobbled up spiders, cats and 5 goats in no time at all!  The plot was abandoned and the children entertained themselves immensely for the next half hour or so. As things started to quieten down, an older lady I’d not met before, stood by me smiling and clasped my hands, chuckling and nodding at me and then at the kids having fun. A beautiful moment indeed!

screen prep