"Drew conjures up enchanting images"
Drew Colby’s work with puppets in South Africa and the UK has evolved over 30 years. He began with glove puppets and marionettes at the age of 12, gradually becoming interested in what the everyday object could say.
Finger and Thumb Theatre began life in 2002 as Objects Dart, a puppet company founded by Drew to explore the use of object theatre in conjunction with traditional puppet forms. From 2002 Drew created fourteen different shows, evolving a style of object puppetry that was described by audience members as “instant puppetry”. In 2010 Drew began to focus on hand shadow puppetry, Finger and Thumb Theatre which creates visual shows for family and adult audiences using different combinations of hand shadows, video technology, live and recorded music, storytelling and songs.
This winter, Dulwich Picture Gallery is hosting Drew’s latest show “Carnival of the Animals”, where Drew conjures up enchanting images and stories with his hands. Accompanying Drew’s hand puppetry is a pianist; the music bringing a change of mood and pace to the performance.
As the lights begin to dim, it is the younger children who seem unsure, perhaps because of the darkness creeping in or uncertainty; the fear of the unknown.
The older children sense the comedy of the initial interaction between the puppeteer and the pianist, cackling out loud and pointing as if to share with their parents their discoveries.
When a mummy kangaroo kisses her baby kangaroo on the head, there is a collaborative “awww” from the audience; the children show their capacity to empathise, to feel the emotion of the moment; appreciating the significance of the relationship.
Small spots of ethereal light begin moving up the wall and across the ceiling, projected by Drew and using a torch shone on a piece of agate. Children marvel at the sight, “it’s snow….bubbles…stars“; their imagination running at full pelt.
A single circular shape then appears on the screen and a child explains “there’s the moon“. The child’s intonation suggests a degree of familiarity, a state or knowing; as if they are referring to an old friend.
When the puppeteer begins moving around the room searching for a cuckoo in the woods, the younger children imitate Drew, calling out “cuckoo…cuckoo”, helping him in his hunt, sensing the importance of finding a new friend and recognising Drew’s loss.
As Drew begins the aviary section of the performance showing the flight of a bird across the screen, older children at the front of the group begin to imitate the puppeteers hand formations, holding up their hands towards the screen, opening and closing their fingers in a flapping motion.
Towards the end of performance one child begins to make marks on paper with a pen telling their mummy “I am drawing around my hand.” Is the child inspired by the shadows and attempting to replicate the concept, the outline of her hand representing its shadow? Making a connection to the relationship between the shadow and its subject?
Full blog here.