Puppets come in many sizes, many styles and can be used in many ways. From glove puppets or puppets for ventriloquists to marionettes or puppets like Punch and Judy. (Jim uses the first three in his show.)
– Use of / How To –
1. At all times bring the puppet to life. It must always be doing something, even if it’s not the central part of the act. Be aware of entrances/exits for puppets. ie. Entering from a suitcase. When talking to your puppet, make sure you look at it as it’s part of the act.
2. If using a glove puppet, what base is the puppet on? ie. A parrot, is he flying or sitting on your arm. A child puppet, are they sitting down on something or floating in the air.
3. Puppets need a personality. It needs specific traits that’ll stick in the audience’s mind. ie. Cleo, Jim’s Dragon, makes burnt rock cakes, topped by toe nails and sneezes a lot. She is usually friendly but shy at first. Always keep your puppet in personality if a routine/sketch is often used.
4. A puppet does not have to speak. He can nod his head or whisper in your ear to answer your questions. If the puppet does speak, it’s important to synchronise your words with the puppet’s mouth.
5. Puppets can be funny, silly or even rude to get across a point. They can correct you, argue with you or point out bad behaviour. This is a good method to draw the audience’s attention and hold it. Don’t over do this as sketches can become too long. This method is especially best with children.
6. Decide who is telling the story, you or the puppet? Build in suspense, action, humour and tailor it to the age group you’re working with.
7. Learn your story well, then learn it using your puppet, if possible try it out on a friend. Important points in a story may need repeating for children to hear.
8. Have good eye contact with the puppet and with the audience – Be aware of how the sketch is going.. If you need to, shorten the story, if it’s going well, add a few lines in.
9. When finishing your act, the puppet can distract the audience. So make your final point after putting the puppet away. You want it to be remembered, however, do not over do it. Keep your final point brief.
10. When working, get a feel for the venue and your surroundings. Integrate them into your story if you can. Make sure your puppet can be seen and heard clearly when performing.
Written by Neil Wilkin, January 2003