On Sunday 27 July we cycled down to Slunglow’s puppet making workshop at the “How to”… Festival at the HUB in Holbeck. The HUB (Holbeck Underground Ballroom) sits under five of the disused railway arches off Water Lane in Holbeck. It is not a venue you’d usually associate with conventional theatre, but then Slunglow is no conventional theatre company. The atmospheric arches of the viaduct lends itself perfectly to Slunglows’ mission of transporting audiences on adventures, creating a unique theatrical experience.
The ” How to”… workshops were spaced out over the weekend. There was a variety of hands on workshops for all ages. You could learn how to write songs with Ruby Macintosh or learn playful acting tips with Temple Theatre. You could even learn Indian cooking techniques with Manjit’s Kitchen.
The price for all this follows Slunglow’s policy of pay what you decide. Which means you put a price on your own learning experience. The brightly decorated Manjits Kitchen wagon is parked in the courtyard as we arrive. The chefs completed their workshop yesterday and they remain for one more day to serve their tasty vegetarian dishes. I can’t decide what to eat, so I order one of everything from the menu and drop £10 in the jar and we dine with our feast on the picnic tables outside.
We’re booked on the ‘How to.. make your own puppet’ with Odd Doll. The puppeteers delivered the workshop in the HUBs living room area, complete with an Aga and comfy sofas. There are three puppeteers ready to help us create our own rod puppet animal characters with the aim to perform our own puppet show at the end.
Laid on top of a red and white polka dot table cover is a treasure trove of decorating materials from; feathers, polystyrene balls of different colours and sizes, pens, sticking shapes, wooden skewers, sequins and fur. In the corner is the gluing station so all hot glue gun skills were left to a puppet professional – how organised is that? Just what every crafty family needs.
We are given important instructions on how to build our basic puppet shapes. This is integral to the design of how you want your animal to move. For our reference the drawings of these shapes are displayed on an overhead projector. Imaginations soon flowed as everyone got to work creating all kinds of creatures. Children and adults were diving into all the materials and formed an orderly queue to the hot glue gun station were our characters legs and arms were secured and began to form a life of their own.
Unfortunately my elephant was upstaged by both my children’s puppets; James Brown the Fox and the Hippogriff.
We then hosted our own puppet show, accompanied by our puppeteer/ performer who improvised a song from the name of our puppet.
More local families arrive with their children to watch Odd Doll’s Performance. Not with our puppets alas, but with Wendy the Worried Whale. Wendy wants to enter a beauty contest but has to travel from freezing Antarctic to Holbeck. This musical adventure takes us from Wendy’s lavishly quilted teal and gold lined bath, to the depths of the ocean bed. We meet a friendly Angler fish, an Electric Eel, a groovy panda, bats, a tree frog and a high heeled wearing flamingo oh, and a flea. Our puppeteers deliver a physical and exhausting looking performance as they handle all puppets with perfect timing.
Adjusting our eyes to the dazzling sun, we go back outside. Diners are entertained by the products of the songwriting workshop held the day before with Ruby Macintosh. Singers from the workshop stand up and entertain us with their newly written songs. We then wait for the evening performance to begin by Temple Theatre presenting Norsesome; a fantasy adventure with Gods, Giants and Elves; a great way to end an inspiring and creative weekend.
The HUB have performances every weekend. The price is always ‘pay what you decide’ on your way out, but you have to book a seat online.
Slunglow will be hosting their show of the White Whale on the canal, in the water, in September.