Dear Caldwell Family,
I would like to personally write to you and say a huge thank you for the support of the Cymbeline Bursary, without it I would not have been able to participate in The Hatchling. The Cymbeline Bursary supported me by funding my living costs, travel and accommodation when rehearsing for the performance. The show was my first professional experience, a treasured and unforgettable memory.
The Hatchling performed in Plymouth City Centre on the 28th and 29th of August 2021. The performance centred around a dragon puppet; the first day was the dragon as a juvenile, and on the second day, she was an adult dragon. For scale, the adult puppet was the height of a doubledecker bus and required sixteen puppeteers to manoeuvre it. Both these beautiful puppets were engineered and designed by Carl Robertshaw.
Angie Bual, the Artistic Director and Executive Producer of Trigger (the production company), seeded the idea six years ago. Angie was interested in the cultural diversity of dragons in both Eastern and Western society. In general, within Eastern culture, dragons are revered as gentle creatures, whereas, in Western culture, they are scary and aggressive. Angie decided to subvert this perception; by creating a friendly and sensitive animal that would roam the streets as a gentle giant.
Puppetry Director, Mervyn Millar, directed the performance with thirty-six puppeteers. We rehearsed six days a week, for four weeks, at a sports park in Plymouth, (where the puppets could be suitably locked up and hidden out of sight from the public). The rehearsals always began with a physical workout, as we all required good strength when puppeteering such large scale puppets. We then would work on team-building exercises to ensure our communication was effective, and above all, that we trusted one another. Throughout rehearsals, we would discuss as a team, the best way to move certain body parts, how and why they would move in the way they do, and study certain animals like the Bat, Gorilla, and Komodo dragon. We would play with the dragon, learning and understanding her personality, thought processes, and journey throughout the two days.
The performance began with the juvenile hatching from an egg in the middle of Plymouth city centre, she then would learn to stand, become curious and grow in confidence throughout the day, to finally falling asleep by a tree. In the early hours of the morning, she was swapped for the adult dragon and put back in the same position, this time when she woke up, she was in an adult body, bigger and heavier than before. As an adult she explored the city further, becoming less reactive to the people and the city, and finally deciding to fly off Plymouth Hoe and out to sea. The performance spanned fifteen hours of improvised puppetry, to then finally passing her onto the flight team to watch her fly into the sky and disappear.
Learning and understanding puppetry from such a highly respected creative team and experienced puppeteers has jumped started my career in puppetry. I was overwhelmed with the generosity of knowledge I received from everyone on the team and cast. I have fallen in love with puppetry - to be a successful puppeteer is not to be seen at all!
As someone who is from Somerset, I am passionate about bringing work to the South-West. Just days before the original show date, a tragic shooting happened in Plymouth. Out of respect for those who lost their lives and to the people of Plymouth, we postponed the show. Returning two weeks later to perform The Hatchling, the reason and poignancy of the show had changed since the shooting. The performance was now an opportunity for Plymouth to come together in solidarity, offering a sense of hope and joy. I felt honoured and overcome with emotion when we performed The Hatchling for the people of Plymouth - it was magical.
I am now about to begin my training at the École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris - a theatre school for movement, mime, clowning, directing and theatre-making. Now having worked on The Hatchling before my professional training, I feel more confident in my abilities. I met another puppeteer who trained at Lecoq, and I have been introduced to other Lecoq alumni since. I am excited to hone in on my puppetry skills whilst at the school in the hope to be a puppeteer in the future.
I hope I have managed to communicate how much the Cymbeline Award has impacted me and my future career in the most positive of ways. Thank you very much for your kindness.