Giant puppets for a grown-up audience

28 January 2011 | Story by Newsroom

Handspring puppetsHandy work: A performance of Midsummer directed by Ruphin Coudyzer.

The internationally renowned Handspring Puppet Company is perhaps not the best choice for children's birthday parties. At the forefront of adult puppeteering since 1985, the company has explored the boundaries of puppet theatre.

A two-lecture course, Handspring Puppet Company's Uncanny Art, was presented at UCT's Summer School by Professor Jane Taylor, novelist, playwright and head of Handspring Trust, from 27 to 28 January.

Using text and image, the course covered the range of Handspring's work, from humanistic naturalistic designs to their bestiaries and fantastical creatures.

Handspring puppets Handspring puppets

The lectures included an examination of their groundbreaking collaborations with artist and director William Kentridge, more recent works, and aspects of the aesthetically experimental work, Tall Horse, a show that combined Handspring's puppetry styles with traditional puppet designs of Malin notably the work of Malian puppet-master Yaya Coulibaly.

Handspring's work has consciously sought to make labour visible through a 'hand-made' ethic, using rubber bands, carved wood and hand-printed fabrics. Their practice of using visible puppeteers, whose animated and expressive faces can be seen by the audience, has challenged many of the commonly held assumptions about traditional puppetry.

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