Sunday, 25 March 2007

Another Beginning - Puppets 1

1988 - a street in Liverpool, the press are waiting. Then a limousine pulls up outside a rather nondescript warehouse and the press photographers start snapping the car's occupants. The occupants are Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. They smile and wave, but they do not get out of the car. They can't, they don't have any legs. They are Spitting Image puppets. Inside the warehouse I have organised an exhibition of television and film puppets and this is a publicity stunt.

Although Reagan and Gorbachev were the architects of glasnost, which a year and a bit later led to the Velvet Revolution and the opening of the Czech lands to us westerners, that is not why I consider this to be a beginning. The exhibition contained a huge range of puppets - Sooty, Parker from Thunderbirds, Postman Pat, Cosgrove Hall's "The Reluctant Dragon", Muffin the Mule, to name but a few. Before having my son earlier in the year I had worked as the manager of the Puppet Centre, the national centre for the puppeteer's art. And so I had had the pleasure of working with some of Britain's finest puppeteers.

I loved and still love puppetry - I loved the way you can do extraordinary things with puppets. Puppetry is a place where art meets theatre meets film meets magic. Now, any visitor to Cesky Krumlov or Prague will tell you that puppetry is part of life in the Czech Republic. Somehow there is something in the Czech soul that responds to puppets and the same is true of mine. There are two puppet museums in Cesky Krumlov and puppets with various standards of execution can be bought in many of the gift shops in the town. But that is not the only reason I consider the Liverpool exhibition to be a beginning of my journey towards Czecho.

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