I've been working with a group from the Tricycle Theatre making puppets ready for their performance in April. I thought I would share some notes about simple ways to bring puppetry to life.
The best way to make fantastic character expressions is to believe your puppet is real. By doing this, it will react to any situation like a person or animal would.
Make the expressions bigger than they would be in real life for the best results.
Every puppet has its own personality. Will your one be silly, happy, sad, curious or a mix of these? What is its name? Where does it come from? What does it like to eat? All this information will help make it more real.
Puppet eye contact is important. It makes the puppet seem more alive.
Not using eye contact is also very useful. If you ask the puppet something using its name and it looks at the ceiling or away, it is obviously trying to ignore you.
If the puppet turns its head in towards your body, this can express concern.
Bob the puppet up, down and side to side to show excitement and happiness.
Keep the mouth slightly open to show a small smile. Tight shut can look like a frown. Open the mouth, tilt the head back and wiggle it to make your puppet look as if it is laughing.
Dropping the head expresses sadness.
If you want your puppet to have a voice, open the mouth when you speak. Generally, people do the opposite and it does not look so effective. Getting the mouth movements right will sustain belief in the puppet’s character.
When the focus is off your puppet, make it fidget a little and gently move your hand up and down to make it look as if it is breathing - a puppet should never be completely still.
Puppets are special and can bring magic to your performance. Try and keep your puppet in character throughout the show.
The most important thing to remember about working a puppet is, if you believe it can be real, everyone else will believe. All the other hints work brilliantly if you try this first.
Feel comfortable with working your puppet. Relax and enjoy!