Puppets for Refugees 6

Estia Agios Nikolaos

Tucked away at the foot of Mount Parnassus and up the hill from the small harbour town of Galaxidi, lies the life-sharing community Estia Agios Nikolaos – a unique and very special place where adults with special needs live, work and spend their days together with the people who care for them.

A slight deviation from puppet making with refugees

I’ll never forget last year’s Halloween… Valeria and Alira invited me to join them on their spooky night out. Of course Croc and Little Gob wanted to tag along and so the five of us head across Athens to Kafeneio, a cosy, co-operative cafe/bar near Akadimia Platonos. After sitting down to watch Young Frankenstein, Little Gob slipped outside for a breather, which is when he met Teleri, a volunteer at Estia. It’s amazing how quickly puppets can break the ice! Before I knew it, we were arranging to put on a show with the residents there.

Over the following weeks, I teamed up with Robin and we were running lots of fun puppet workshops together  Late November and the two of us hopped on a bus and set of to Galaxidi 200 km north. Over the next five days, we ran workshops with the residents and devised our play. Teleri told us the local tale about a boy who was licked by a dog who then licked it back. After a telling off, the boy ran away leaving his friends worried and determined to find him…

We made a quick trip into Galaxidi for supplies; a dozen cardboard boxes ideal for making our cast.

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The residents and volunteers painted beautiful shadow puppets, which included a herd of goats, a scorpion, an owl, cat, an innocent fox and two policemen and 3 versions of their cop car, one with flashing lights!

We rigged up a screen from a curtain. During our stay, met and commandeered the finest of musicians; Paula welcomed people into the hall playing classical piano. We had our own musical accompaniment with Sakis improvised on violin, Felix playing clarinet and Carsten with the harmonica. Pavlos donned a bushy beard and hat and narrated in great gusto to the audience in Greek.

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Robin and I operated the puppets and gave our very best fumbling, English copper accents

The show must go on!

It didn’t all go smoothly. Teleri made an excellent puppet of the main character – with articulated limbs, attached with split pins. The story ends when the boy is found (much credit to the goats) lying outside a cave, making angel wings-patterns with his arms. It was the last puppet to be made and only finished as we were about to start the show. No time for rehearsals! Thanks to Robin’s direction, the show was going well. I picked up Teleri’s puppet and started waving his arms and legs. Suddenly, his arm fell off and then a leg! I scrambled behind the screen rummaging among the other puppets for his limbs and fixed them back on and he was back on action. It was tense behind the scenes, but we persevered. I think we pulled it off (the show I mean, not his legs!)

The closing scene had all the characters dancing together and celebrating with the boy.  Robin and me popped our heads round the screen that had been hiding us so well. We were met with applause and laughter and everyone came up to hug us and play with the puppets and instruments.

This is my most treasured photo – I think it sums up the experience perfectly!

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Here is a 2 minute stop-mo version of the 20 minute show (silent) …

This video gives an introduction to Estia…

The Estia community is exceptional. The dedicated carers are inspirational and the location is sublime.

Arriving back in Athens after such an immersive and rewarding week was a big shock – everything was so noisy and hectic! Fortunately, we were invited to return and join them in seeing in the new year, Kalo Neo Etos!  I look forward to returning again.