Spotlight falls on shadow puppet theatre

Artistic co-director and puppeter Anna Ingleby
Artistic co-director and puppeter Anna Ingleby
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IT is a theatre that could literally be described as emerging from the shadows.

But now the spotlight is on the puppet theatre with a new home in Hull and an ambition to create an enduring artistic legacy.

Self-employed puppeteer Anna Ingleby, who comes from Beverley, and Indonesian-born Haviel Perdana, have been working on their new 60-seater theatre since September.

They have done everything from painting the walls to laying the floors; a friend provided the seating, which for shows are decked with red, brown and beige cushions.

Sprucing up the front of the building of the former Victorian school, now the base for an artists’ collective, so people have an idea of the “cocoon of creativity” hidden within, is next on the wish list.

They are launching the venue on Boxing Day with a production of Aladdin, a giant interactive shadow theatre show for families and children aged four upwards.

The show has been touring since April last year but has never been performed in the UK before.

It’s a classic tale of love versus greed, with the puppetry this 
time performed by Emily Thompson, a college graduate, due to Anna’s recent hip replacement, although she will still be doing the vocals.

The puppeteer creates giant shadows by holding up the characters – designed by Czech-Canadian artist Susanna Samanek – in front of one or more of 17 different light sources to create a magical glowing effect on a big screen.

The shadows and scenery grows and shrinks as the puppeteer varies the distance between light and screen.

Haviel, who has composed the electronic music, mixes it live, following the puppeteer’s cues.

He has redrafted the tale, which originates from the Arabian Nights, to fit the particular demands of puppet theatre, whose characters interact with the audience and answer back.

Anna, who runs the Beverley Puppet Festival, admits there is a stigma in the “p” for puppet, but says it’s no Punch and Judy, although there are some similarities with panto.

She says: “No show is exactly the same, anything might happen, there might be a technical hitch or a particularly boisterous member of the audience. In one of the shows Aladdin asked ‘What shall I wish for?’ and they answered ‘Fish and chips’ so that’s been written into the script now.

“At the end we roll up the screen and people are amazed to find one person creates the show. They go away really inspired to make their own puppets at home.”

The couple are well aware of the challenges of making a relatively unknown art form fly in west Hull – with Anna admitting to feeling “on the front line of no man’s land” – but they are inspired by the example of the Little Angel Theatre in London, which did something very similar to what they are now attempting to do, when they transformed a derelict Temperance hall in Islington to a theatre back in 1961.

It is still creating new productions and touring, having celebrated its 60th birthday.

The pair, who have already delivered a dozen free “taster” performances in local schools, are determined to make a go of it – they will celebrate their 11th wedding anniversary during one of the performances.

She said: “Normally we are 
out touring at weekends, or looking for work, or devising new shows.

“But the climate is changing, some of the venues which used to have us back each year have closed down.

“Also it takes three hours to put up the show and another two to take it down and it can be a problem taking it out to schools.

“We feel like we are on the frontline of no man’s land, we really do, we think we are a little mad, in 
a sense, but we don’t have a choice, this is what we want to do and this is what we want to make happen.

“Like David Hockney, we deal with bright colours; we are just wanting to wake people up to a colourful, magical experience and so they realise you can be creative with the most simple resources.”

There will be two shows of Aladdin a day at 11am and 2.30pm from Wednesday to Sunday throughout the Christmas period starting on Boxing Day until Sunday, January 6 (excluding New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day).

Tickets are £5, thanks to support from Hull Council. There will also be a drop-in arts workshop between shows from 12pm to 2pm where people can make their own shadow puppet, and there will be refreshments in a pop-up café open from 10.30am until 4pm on each show day.

Indigo Moon Studio Theatre is situated in Scrapstore Studios at the corner of Dairycoates Avenue and Woodcock Street in Hull, off St Georges Road, a short walk from Asda at the end of Hessle Road.