Alongside Snapshots and Testroom – our popular series within which Scottish-based theatre makers present a flavour of their current explorations, we introduce Rising Voices. A new programming strand, this features four more-substantially finished pieces created by emerging practitioners developing intriguing and exciting work. Part of this programme is Transmographiles, an imaginative and poetic hand-puppetry show that will take viewers onto a surreal evolutionary journey, where human hands move, morph and combine in unusual ways to become unexpected creatures. Created by emerging company Hopeful Monster, the collaboration between three artists from different countries, working between Glasgow and London. We spoke to the team about the origin of Hopeful Monster, creating Transmographiles, and their future project. Transmographiles will be at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh on Friday 8 February at 9:30pm, and at Perth Theatre on Saturday 9 February at 9pm.
” Hands are beautiful and incredibly versatile. It is fascinating when parts of your own body are involved in puppetry, there are many intricate movements – pulsations, twitching, breaths – that happen naturally.”
– Hopeful Monster
What is the story behind Hopeful Monster? How did you meet and what motivates your practice?
Hopeful Monster formed in order to push the possibilities of puppetry. We’re all visual thinkers, love detailed movement and share the desire to create things that are playful and weird. We had all been experimenting with hand puppetry separately before coming together to collaborate on this, our first show, to see what could be created with more hands on deck. Our inspiration comes from life in all its forms and in the struggle and connections between living things.
The three of us met while training at The Puppet Theatre Barge and The Curious School of Puppetry. Curious is a new training programme that provides a platform for the long-term development of excellence in puppetry performance in Britain and has created an extended family-like network of puppeteers which we’re proud to be part of.
Our company takes its name from the hopeful monster hypothesis, or what you get when a sudden genetic mutation creates a radically new organism. The theory has been widely criticised by scientists but it caught our imagination nonetheless. There is something strangely charismatic in the image of these improbable, if not impossible, creatures.
Why hand puppetry? And what inspired you about this form of puppetry?
Hands are beautiful and incredibly versatile. They are creative and explorative, tactile and curious. It is fascinating when parts of your own body are involved in puppetry, there are many intricate movements – pulsations, twitching, breaths – that happen naturally. Living flesh seemed like the right material to work with to portray animals because we are animal ourselves. We enjoy the fleshiness, fluidity and directness of this approach. This mirrors the ideas we wanted to explore about evolution and life.
There’s something lovely in puppetry about joining together and breathing as a new creature. Suspension of disbelief in a puppet can be powerful for the puppeteers too, and this is even more profound when the puppet is a part of your own body. There’s an enjoyable dissonance during a performance when we exist simultaneously as individual puppeteers, a part of the puppet, and the puppet as independent creature. We hope the audience feels the force of this strangeness.
Could you tell us more about the process of the piece and its development?
The company is split between Glasgow and London and so we have had to contend with some logistical difficulties while creating, rehearsing and presenting our progress between our home cities. However, like any long distance relationship there’s got to be enough going for it to make the miles between us manageable, and thankfully so far this has been the case!
Making this first show together as a company, and doing so as emerging practitioners, we’ve had to make it work on a minimal budget. We’ve had to be inventive, multitasking as artists, directors, makers and performers. We have poured our time, effort and soul into this project. It’s been a big learning curve and it’s not over yet.
The support we’ve received from the creative community around us has been really encouraging and inspiring. Whether coming to sit for a day in the director’s chair or helping with graphic design, some amazingly talented individuals have contributed to this project right the way through. We’ve collaborated with a wonderfully dedicated and patient musician who developed the soundtrack remotely, working from videos sent back and forth. We set up a series of living-room showings where we invited friends from all walks of life to share our work in progress as well as a home-cooked meal and their feedback. These evenings have become a really lovely way to bring people together, as well as proving invaluable for the development of the show. It is a format we’ll definitely be repeating in future.
We are grateful to have been able to try out our ideas at the Tron’s Outside Eyes and Moving Parts Scratch space to receive audience feedback at an early stage. We feel fortunate to have been offered exciting platforms to share the piece so far in England, France, Australia and now Scotland and we’re looking forward to the on-going journey both of this show and our collective in the future.