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An interview with Kathleen Yore of Odd Doll Puppetry

Kathleen Yore will be leading the 'Cast a Talking Head' puppet making workshop as part of Newcastle Puppetry Festival 2021. For more information on the workshop and to book tickets, click here.

Kathleen Yore with 'Whisker' from 'Whiskers First Winter'

Laura Firby, our 2021 Events Producer Intern, caught up with Kathleen Yore of Odd Doll Puppetry to find out about her work, how she got into puppetry and to ask more about the upcoming workshop...

You have such a wealth of knowledge and skill in terms of performing, making and teaching, but where did it all begin?

From a young age I have always loved the absurd and the grotesque. I studied at Bretton Hall where I was allowed to fully explore my desire for a physical performance style that enables the audience to submerge into strange imaginary worlds. I fell in love with clown, mask, and uncomfortable body altering costumes, but it was many years later that I discovered puppetry. I found an abandoned building in Leeds, survived off benefits and tried to teach myself to build and operate puppets. It was not very glamorous! My need to do a bit of everything is both a blessing and a curse! It means as a freelancer I have a wide spectrum of work I can survive off, and I need change, but sometimes I wonder if it confuses people! My passion really lies in collaborating with people; focussing on the design, build and directing of a project.

Kathleen Yore is also a physical theatre performer and clown

For people who are new to puppetry can you tell us a little about the different types of puppets you make and use?

I love making puppets. I enjoy building tabletop characters that can be operated by one person, for example in ‘Whiskers First Winter’ a show I made for children. I have also made lip sync and hand puppets. I love playing with objects and abstract materials too. But I still feel like I am at the start of my puppetry journey; I have so much more to discover in terms of building technique and style.

Seaside Terror was an absolute hit at Moving Parts: Newcastle Puppetry Festival 2019. The puppets and style of this piece have such a unique and individual aesthetic. Can you tell us a little bit about the process?

I am always in my element when it comes to horror…or anything weird, so I loved every part of researching and making Seaside Terror. After developing the stories and the puppets with Rebekah Caputo we collaborated with the incredible Adam Robinson who specialises in horror writing. Our incredible set designer Alli Allen then built our flat pack ice-cream van and the legendary Paul Mosley made us a creepy 70's soundtrack with lots of synth! It was a wonderful process, but it is very exhausting to perform!

'Seaside Terror', which sold out at Moving Parts 2019

What materials do you like to use for crafting puppets?

I like starting in clay. I previously used latex a lot, but now I really enjoy worbla and plastazote. I often work with foam and fabric too. I am currently experimenting with wooden structures and mask making, and have yet to play properly with styrofoam carving.

What kind of things can people expect to be working with in one of your masterclasses?

This is my first masterclass of this nature and I have set myself some big challenges. I will be covering a lot of what I have learnt over the years. My aim is to encourage a high standard and embrace individuality. Trying to explain how a clay sculpt develops live on screen and then cast into plaster will be interesting! I will then go into some intricate detail when it comes to moving mouth mechanisms and finishing, before moving into my favourite part, which is the painting and texturising. I will also focus extra time on making great teeth, eyeballs and hair, then hopefully move onto some torso instruction. This will be a busy month!

Preparations are underway for the 'Cast a Talking Head' masterclass at the 2021 festival

Do you create a bond with the puppets you create?

Not yet, because annoyingly, as soon as I’ve made something I am sick of looking at it and want to move onto something else quickly! But seeing how children believe and attach to my puppets is a very beautiful thing indeed.

Do you have any special favourites?

I like ‘Wendy the Walrus’ who has now been living in a builder’s bag in the basement of an old warehouse for many years now. Poor Wendy, it has been a long time since she's had a good sing song!

Kathleen with 'Wendy the Walrus' from 'The Worried Walrus'

What would you say to someone who is just getting into puppetry, how to develop their skills, where to go, who to watch?

My advice would be to get inspired by watching as much puppetry as you can. We are spoilt for choice with come incredible festivals here in the UK - my favourites being London International Mime Festival, Skipton Puppet Festival, Beverley Puppet Festival, Bristol Festival of Puppetry, Tunbridge Wells Puppetry Festival and of course the incredible Moving Parts in Newcastle. Get on the workshops at these festivals, especially the making ones as they are less common. I love finding out who makes the puppets for productions and following their process. Join puppetry company’s social media sites to get updates on any skills sharing sessions they may be running and definitely join Puppeteers UK and Puppet Centre Trust mailing lists as these are always full of the latest updates. Many universities are including puppetry into their performance arts modules now, which makes me very happy, and we have the legendary ‘Curious School of Puppetry’ which I would love to attend! Our puppetry community is a lovely supportive one so feel free to write to people too…including me!

Preparations are underway for the 'Cast a Talking Head' masterclass at the 2021 festival

There are still a few places left on the 'Cast a Talking Head' masterclass, which starts Saturday 26th June 2021. For more info and tickets, click here.

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