Going on a big adventure through a beloved fairytale, a young girl named Jack is central to bringing to life one of Polka Theatre's latest children's shows, opening their new season with Jack V Giant.
Working on the production, Keith Frederick has the role of puppet maker, and has told us more about what this means to him.
Can you tell us a little about your work on the show, Jack V Giant, and which of your characters will we meet?
I was commissioned by Polka to make small representations of the performers playing Jack and the Giant as well as some additional elements. I don’t want to give too much away; you’ll have to come and see it to find out more!
How does your puppetry bring to life this classic fairytale musical?
The puppetry in this show is used to punctuate or drive certain moments in the narrative, where there is a need to give a sense of scale and danger. This is particularly important for such a ‘giant’ show.
What career journey have you taken to become a puppet maker?
My fascination with puppets and puppetry started when I was very young and I still have all the puppets that were bought for me during my childhood years. I even built a theatre and my own puppets and put on shows at local care homes, pre schools and community centres. It was making the clothes for my puppets that eventually dictated my initial career choice and I studied and
became a fashion designer. I also spent 5 years in the Royal Navy, which of all the things I have done, taught me more than I could have ever imagined. Despite these detours, all of which have stood me in good stead with what I have learnt from them, it seemed almost inevitable that I would come back to thing I love most- puppetry and making puppets.
What is special about working in children's theatre in particular?
Oh my goodness, where does one start with that? There is nothing more magical in this world than seeing a child at a show for the first time, seeing them totally engaged with the spectacle of what unfolds before them, seeing their imaginations be ignited. To witness the wonder of theatre and storytelling that can reach a child is what makes children’s theatre and puppetry so very special to me.
Which of your creations has been your favourite to make, and which has been the most
Oh without a doubt Jack. As a creative I am very rarely totally happy with what I do, thinking it could always be better. It takes quite some time for me to appreciate what I have achieved and not see all the flaws. When I completed Jack, I was so pleased with how she turned out, I didn’t want to hand her over. I wanted to keep her for myself… don’t tell anyone!
The most challenging? Mmmmmm? I am going to say, no comment. To tell you more would spoil the surprise!
What advice would you give those that are inspired by your work, and would be keen to pursue the role themselves?
Making puppets is the only art form I know of that employs virtually all creative disciplines. You have to be an artist, a sculptor, an engineer, a technician, a designer, a pattern maker, a tailor, a machinist, a carpenter, a performer, and more!
I would recommend attending puppet making courses and there are excellent tutorials online as well as courses at several universities and colleges. Most importantly, decide what type of puppet you would like you to make and give it a try.
For anyone who wants to do this seriously, I would learn to make and use marionettes first. Once you understand them, all the rest are a walk in the park…. Well, comparatively!
Many thanks to Keith for this really lovely interview- it is such a joy to hear about your work! All the best for the show, and future projects.
Additional thanks to Alice James and Rebecca Short for coordinating this interview.