Poppy Franziska

Dear Caldwell Family,

I am writing to you to thank you for the Cymbeline Funding that enabled me to take part in the wonderful project that is The Hatchling. I cannot begin to express how much this project meant to me personally and the effect this experience has had on my artistic development in the early stages of my career.

Having the opportunity to work with Mervyn Miller and the team of wonderful creatives to bring this dragon to life was incredibly inspiring and, despite not having done puppetry before, I felt so cared for and respected as an artist. The working environment during the rehearsal process was generous and respectful, everyone was desperate to learn more about what worked in the puppet - we spent a lot of time researching different animal gaits, discussing what phases and moods the dragon would go through as she grew over the two day performance.

As a cast, we became very close and although our professional experiences were vastly different, no one had been involved in anything quite like this so there was an air of excitement throughout the whole process. The training was intense, we pushed ourselves both physically and emotionally to prepare for the performance. We played connecting games to build our special awareness and learned to work together to coordinate this huge puppet. There were 14 puppeteers in the adult puppet which meant that you had to be aware of everyone’s movement and connected enough to make the movement look natural throughout the body. My favourite puppeteering position was in the temples; I loved the expressive nature of the head, the subtlety of movement that showed that she was thinking or smelling.

When I was inside the dragon puppeteering, I lost all sense of time, I was completely absorbed in the movement and her story. We talked a lot about how in ‘dragon time’ everything was extremely slow; she was completely led by her senses and everything she encountered was new. The reactions from the audience were really incredible, especially the people who lived in Plymouth locally - the dragon enabled them to look at their home with wonder, as if for the first time. Plymouth was completely transformed through the naivety of the dragon’s eyes.

I was in a small team of puppeteers who were involved in the hatching of the egg. The dragon was born in the centre of the city and marked the start of the two day performance. This was one of my favourite moments over the two days since it was so intimate - there was a crowd gathered round the egg, watching as she began to crack it open. I heard one child shout “I’ve never seen a dragon being born before”. It was a beautiful moment.

I was baffled by how natural puppetry felt and, moving forward, I am eager to learn as much as I can about it. I love how accessible and moving this way of storytelling is. It was a truly wonderful experience. I leave this project feeling excited for my future career with the knowledge that there are people in this field that are egoless, kind, talented and passionate about the power of the arts!

I am also proud to have been a part of something that meant so much for Plymouth, in light of the recent shootings that had taken place in the city and its impact on the community.

Thank you for this opportunity, I cannot believe that I was lucky enough to have this as my first professional puppetry experience. I have extremely high expectations for what is coming next.

Yours sincerely,

Poppy

Poppy Franziska

BA Drama