News, Shows

Seagulls R&D Weeks 2 and 3

In September we kicked off the second part of our research and development period for When Seagulls Saved the World in the AMATA studios on Falmouth University’s Penryn campus.

With our newly-made R&D seagull puppets now ready, puppeteers Amber-Rose Perry and Cariad Astles spent some time exploring the movement of each puppet before taking them out and about on campus.

Making the seagull body
Ready to paint and add eyes!
The hand hole for animating Roger’s feet

In our first week of R&D we discovered that seagulls – Herring Gulls in particular – have an interesting walk with varying movement qualities depending on whether they’re strutting down the high street, creeping up on an unsuspecting tourist enjoying a pasty, or running along the beach, small child in pursuit. We decided that this was something we wanted to explore with the puppets, so having legs and feet that could actually walk was important.

The best way we found to achieve the level of subtlety we wanted in the walk was to use the puppeteer’s fingers, attaching them to the legs with little elastic straps. Although not the most comfortable arrangement for the puppeteers, with practice they both developed a lifelike seagull walk with their puppet with subtle differences that added to the character.

The second week with the puppeteers in the room was a mixture of exploring what specific kinds of seagull movement (and through this, behaviour) were possible to achieve with our puppets, discovering and developing the two characters and devising scenes. We achieved the latter through guided improvisations to explore different scenarios the characters might find themselves in. The two puppeteers’ wonderful sense of play really fed in to this process, and we went from starting the week with two nameless and characterless puppets, to finishing our second week together with Roger the Herring Gull and Betty the Great Black-Backed Gull, two characters with interesting personalities and an amusing relationship dynamic.

In the third week with the puppeteers we refined the scenes we had created, setting out specific choreography where useful, and spent two marvellous days working in the inspiring setting of Trebah Garden… which was where we discovered that this show may work best as an outdoor show! We did a photoshoot with Rhona McDade from Goodrest Studios on Trebah beach and filmed a short trailer with the team from Bull & Wolf Film Co. to help market the show.

At the end of week three we shared our work-in-progress and ran some puppetry workshops for children and families at The Big Read Fest, which took place at Gwealan Tops Adventure Playground in Redruth. Seeing how the children responded to the issue of plastic pollution with so many creative ideas filled us with inspiration and hope, and we look forward to further developing the show and sharing it with audiences next summer!

This project is generously funded by Arts Council England’s National Lottery Project Grants and FEAST Cornwall and their funders.