"Everybody Loves Puppets!"

30 Jun 2022

If there’s one thing we love at BOV towers, it’s a puppet - so imagine how hysterical we were when asked to host 3.5m tall puppet Little Amal’s visit to Bristol. 

The reaction from over 4000 people who came to greet her in Bristol got us thinking about the way puppetry can draw you in, make you imagine that anything is possible and wake up the child in all of us. 

We started thinking about the puppets we’d seen here over the years that really had an impact..here are some of our faves..

Photos by Simon Annand

1) Mojo (2016)
The wolf from The Grinning Man has taken on cult status for fans of the show. There’s only technically half a puppet- the rest is done through the skill of Alice Barclay and Stuart Angell. Back-breaking stuff but what a result! 

Created by Gyre & Gimble, fed by Pedigree Chum.

Photo by Steve Tanner

2) The Little Matchgirl (2017)
A tearjerker for Christmas 2017 - "It’s so easy to forget that you’re not watching a real little girl explore the magical world of Hans Christian Andersen" (Centre Stage reviews). 

Not a dry eye in the house at the end of Emma Rice’s emotional Christmas story with a message about the forgotten people we walk past on our streets. But the impact of her story led to an outpouring of charitable feeling, with audiences donating over £23,000 for St Mungo's homeless charity.

Photos by Simon Annand and Eva Haeberle

3)  A Midsummer Night's Dream (2013)
Titania and Oberon. Handspring Puppet Company reunited with Tom Morris for this one and it was a real privilege to watch them work in our Paintshop throughout rehearsals. 

Just with a head and beautifully carved wooden hand- the actors were able to conjure an entire being to stand over the stage and intimidate the lot of us! Just as the King and Queen of the fairies should..

photo by JonCraig_Photos

4) Little Amal (2022)- also created by Handspring Puppet company and brought to life by Artistic Director Amir Nizar Zuabi, she has become a global phenomenon. Her size and movement are awe inspiring and her personality shines through every carefully choreographed moment.

Photo by Paul Blakemore

5) Martha the Giraffe (2019) by Brook Tate. “My Great Giraffe” was a show created by Brook which was co-produced with Bristol Old Vic.

“Martha” the live-size puppet proved such a hit, she became a familiar face in children’s hospitals and at events, championing her message of holding your head up high during difficult times, even when you may be feeling scared. Martha reappeared in Brook's latest show Birthmarked during Mayfest this year too. 

Brook told us: “Martha the Giraffe, made from a linen curtain hung from a pole, brings out so much joy and love of pretty much anyone who meets her, and she has literally changed my life since I made her.“  

Find out more about Martha in this Radio4 interview: Around 17:30 mins in: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000ymxn

Photo by Chelsea Cliff

7) Conspiraseagull (2021). The mighty Young Company created their own piece of street theatre last summer, just as live theatre started to make a return. 

No stage, no lights, no tickets. It was live, for anyone who happened to be in that space at that time. They decided to include their own puppetry element - a giant seagull, created with the help of puppetry designer Tomasin Cuthbert.

Big, loud and in your face – just like Bristol seagulls..!

Production photo by Steve Tanner, Percy hanging out with Harriet in the office.

6) Sleeping Beauty (2015). Percy, the little Prince. Made by Bristol puppet-designer Marc Parrett. The child version of the prince (who would become our Sleeping Beauty) had a real 'muppet quality' to him and the cutest face. He’s so cute in fact, the Engagement department has adopted him and he’s now an official member of their team… 

Joey the Horse celebrating Bristol Old Vic's 250th birthday. Photo JonCraig_Photo

And finally… 2016,  Joey the horse, from the Tony-award winning production War Horse.  

OK, not ours, but he did make a guest appearance at our 250th birthday and the look on everyone’s faces proved he’s the ultimate thoroughbred.