Puppets Part 3. A ‘Puppety’ profile on Festive Factory.

There is nothing expected or predictable about the way Festive Factory approaches puppetry and puppet theater. From giant insects, to combining other skills and taking puppetry to the streets, Festive Factory inadvertently continues to push puppet boundaries. Puppetry is highly accessable to the public in more ways than one.

What ‘we’ do.

  • Perform puppetry on the streets, at festivals, in corporate events etc.
  • Improvise with our puppets.
  • Combine our puppetry with other skills
  • Make and design all our own puppets with performing and durability in mind
  • Resolve design issues in unique and surprising ways.
  • Expand the boundaries of what is or apparently is not possible.

What we generally do not do:

  • Tell traditional fairy stories.
  • Perform plays traditionally on stage.
  • Generally perform scripts.
  • Buy pre-made puppets.

Not to say that we can’t do any of the above… just that without a commission in place, the above ‘dos’ and ‘donts’ set out our common practice.

Our puppets are adaptations and evolutions from traditional styles of puppetry.

For example, as previously mentioned in the puppetry webblog parts 1 and 2, we have taken the concept of the string puppet and extended the boundaries. Yorik-&-Nole-web

  • String puppetry is most usually humanoid figures performing fairy tales or miming to familiar songs.
  • String puppetry is typically performed in a theatre or on stages.
  • Many String puppeteers seem to think it is necessary to have has many puppets in a show as possible.
  • Many string puppeteers feel it is necessary to have tricks hidden within the puppets.
  • Many Marionette shows have their sound track pre recorded so that the puppeteer is freed to purely mime with their puppet to the soundtrack.

Whilst Festive Factory has indeed also done some of the above, there are always specific variations that set them apart.

Such an example includes the ‘Dream type’ story of ‘Gosper’ the nature spirit and ‘Clover’ the Giant Praying Mantis. This show departed from the ‘norm’ in the following ways:

  • A Giant Praying Mantis with 18 strings replaced the human focus.
  • There were just 3 puppets in the whole story.
  • There were two actors who variously performed as actors and puppet operators.
  • The was an original story.
  • The show was narrated in its entirety at the commencement by a human string puppet.
  • The actual action of the show was of just one scene from the story.
  • The show demanded a large degree of audience participation.

His_TheatreThe size of the giant praying mantis required its operation to be from a height of 6 feet and it be hand carved of lightweight timber in this case, cedar. The nature of this work required that it be performed from a lightweight movable platform. Audience participation was incorporated as the smaller ‘baby’ praying mantis was taken out to the audience, climbing over the viewers. Later, the audience were invited into the performance space to shake hands with the larger puppet.

Other skills were included in the show such as contact ball manipulation, a form of ball juggling where the balls never leave contact with the hands, sleight of hand, and live music and the puppeteer working concurrently as actor directly interacting with their puppet.

Another show that is still regularly performed is the ‘Rock and Roses’ on tour. This is a scaled down ‘Rock and Roll’ show.
Points of difference from the norm but consistent with Festive Factory practice include:


  • Up to a maximum of 3 puppets only in the show.
  • An audience volunteer is intrinsic to the show’s completion.
  • Whilst the star, a guitar-playing puppet mimes the music, repartee from the puppet is live and loosely improvised interspersed between the songs, which at any moment might be interrupted. The songs serve purely to move the show from point to point as the repartee carries the performance.
  • Because of the improvised nature of the script, the show is comprehensively adaptable for adult audiences or children, or both.

This is all quite avant guard when considered in context of standard practices especially throughout Europe even as late as 10 years ago.

Next week the final article on our series of puppetry as we search Festive Factory for other standard or non standard practices that push puppetry boundaries.