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Bosco's ancestor: Puppeteering that goes beyond children's entertainment

The most recent production from the puppet theatre company responsible for Bosco and Wanderly Wagon focuses on the struggle faced by older people.

THE ART OF puppetry is something that most people associate with children’s entertainment.

The perception of puppets as exclusively for younger people is to an extent a view restricted to the UK and Ireland.

In many different cultures around the world puppets are serious business. They are used in dramatic theatre and bypass any notions of gimmickry.

In Vietnam certain groups integrate puppet shows into funeral festivals, in a performance that is intended to be enjoyed by the both the recently deceased and the guests present.

The Carved Soul -7 Source: NoStringsAttached

Any Irish person growing up in the Ireland of the 1980s would have had Bosco as an everpresent feature of their childhood. For those a generation before Wanderly Wagon was also a big draw.

The puppets from both of these programmes were created by Eugene Lambert, founder of the Lambert Puppet Theatre.

Forty years later, Jason Lambert is a third generation puppeteer and grandson of Eugene. His creation Ollie has been brought to life in new production ‘The Carved Soul’ which has had a sold out run as part of the Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival.

A big departure from the children’s productions his grandfather was involved in, the play attempts to capture a snapshot into the realities of old age for Ollie.

The Carved Soul -11 Ollie the puppet Source: NoStringsAttached

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Jason felt it was important with the piece to challenge the way puppets are viewed:

I suppose one of the main things I wanted to try with this project was to challenge the perception of puppetry as being for children… when people think about it here they think about things like Punch and Judy and the programmes that my family did that are very much towards kids.

“For the past ten years I just wanted to break into adult puppetry. I had this image of an old man puppet. The scale of him came from seeing other puppetry. Things like the company Handspring who did the puppets for War Horse.”

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The Carved Soul -14

Claire Walsh produced the play and performed in it. Having previously worked in care homes, Claire hoped the play resonated with an older audience:

My grandmother came in on Sunday night to see it. This is a woman who wouldn’t have any problem in telling me she didn’t like it. She’s 88 and still very alert.And after it she said ‘I loved it and I hated’ and that it really bothered her. And I asked her to, you know, explain this, and she said ‘how do you know what it’s like to be at the end of your life and about to die’.
I suppose that is quite a sobering thought.

For Claire it is hoped that the show will receive the backing to return for a longer run.

“Beside from anything, there has been too much work for it not to go forward. For Jason it took nearly a thousand hours to make Ollie. I suppose everyone feels passionate about their own project but I think this is really a story that isn’t talked about enough.”

The voice of Ollie was done by actor Tiernan Kearns. More used to appearing as himself in productions, working with a puppet was a departure: “I’d never done any puppetry before this. It was a challenge because there are four of use maniupalting him. The only way we are able to communicate during the show is through Ollie really.”

Getting the manipulation good enough so that he looked real was a huge challenge and then on top of that it was learning to listen to each other and communicate without talking.
While puppetry remains a popular form of children’s entertainment it can also sit comfortably in a serious dramatic setting. Perhaps the success of ‘The Carved Soul’ will lead to wider use of the art form on the Irish stage.

Read: Thunderbirds creator Gerry Anderson dies, aged 83

Also: Voice of Sesame Street’s The Count dies

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