In late 2011 we were commissioned by Applause Rural Touring and PANeK to create a piece of street theatre that could be the centre piece for Applause Outdoors 212 during the summer of 2012. The brief focused on the Olympic and Paralympic Values and so our commissioned piece was the creation of two interactive robot puppets called ‘Puppit + Digit’ who have come to Earth to learn all about the human race.
In true Polymath style we wanted to blend traditional and contemporary techniques, so the puppets are loosely based on the Banraku style and each has touch screen interfaces embedded in their chests. These screens allow audiences to learn about the puppets – where they came from, who they are – and share experiences with them through video, photography and written word.
Puppit + Digit upload their shared audience experiences to the ‘social network’ and a bespoke website. Audiences can go online and view their own interactions and those of other people from different events and locations.
The project started with a lengthy design phase during which we explored lots of different styles of robots from science-fiction films and comics to real life robotics. We wanted a design that was friendly and approachable but not to childish and that appealed to an adult audience as well.
Our designs were done in 3D which allowed us visualise the puppets before we went into production. We then sent these designs to Jill Molyneux at Jagprops who, along with her team, did a fantastic job on the construction of the puppets. We worked with Jill to fit the hardware and perfect the mechanisms and fittings for the puppeteers to use.
The hardware and software was developed by the Polymathematics team and involved one or two tricky aspects including hacking a GoPro camera to allow it to be controlled by our bespoke Flash application.
You can learn more about the production process on our blog.
REHEARSALS & BETA TESTING
Once the puppets were finished we went straight into rehearsals with our new puppeteers. As a company we are always looking to develop our professional practice in all areas and so we organised a workshop with Nottingham Trent University’s Sean Myatt who runs the Puppetry MA Course.
During this session we explored characterisation and movement and what was possible with our new 6ft puppets!
We are always looking for new puppeteers to join our team so if you are a puppeteer with experience of street theatre and physical theatre, then please get in touch.
As soon as we took Puppit + Digit out on the road they were a huge hit! Our first major show was the Fuse Medway Festival in Kent. We had the privilege of performing alongside some other great acts and the audiences in Chatham and Rochester were enthralled.
As part of the commission we were asked to perform at some of the Olympic Torch Relay events and the Evening Torch Celebration in Dover was the highlight for us. We were right amongst the action and even got on stage with the Coca Cola team to energise the crowds before the torch arrived. Puppit + Digit even had their photo taken with the Olympic Torch!
Puppit + Digit will be appearing at events during August/September 2012, including the Paralympic Road Cycling at Brands Hatch. We are currently booking a 2013 tour and will be appearing at international puppetry festivals throughout the year.
For more information on booking Puppit + Digit, please contact Polymathematics via the Contact page.
Puppit + Digit is copyright protected. © 2011 Polymath.