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  • Writer's pictureKerrin Tatman

Connecting schools and care homes through shadow puppetry

Indigo Moon Theatre have been busy making and distributing a series of portable shadow theatre kits to schools and care homes in Beverley and Hull. This initiative is part of our Sanctuary in Creativity project, which we are running during 2021 - an interim year between festivals. Anna Ingleby takes the story...

The shadow puppet kit with all of the contents is laid out on a green table. The shadow screen box with a light has puppets and coloured backgrounds placed in front of it ready for use. A puppeteer holds one of the backgrounds in front of the light source to demonstrate the effect on the screen.
A completed shadow kit by Indigo Moon Theatre

Having tried out a pilot of such shadow theatre kits in care homes and sheltered housing units during the online 2020 Beverley Puppet Festival, this year we have partnered up three local primary schools with four residential homes in Beverley.

Two participants of the project hold a shadow theatre kit in a garden. One participant who white with long hair and wearing a yellow scarf is from a participating school. The other person is white with short hair wearing a black coat and is from a participating care home.
Participants receive their shadow kit

Year 5 children from Swanland Primary school will pair up with Figham House; year 6 children from Cavendish Primary in Hull will pair up with Claremont House; and Year 2 children from Keldmarsh Primary will pair up with New House and Town View (separate organisations sharing the same building in Beverley).

This year we have teamed up with Beverley Minster to share their Sanctuary stories which tell of medieval fugitives who sought sanctuary in the town. The Minster commissioned six short films which our participants will be watching to spark both their own and remote discussions with their partnered participants, leading to the exchange of ideas and creation of their own stories through the shadow theatre kits.

The kits have been a while in the making. This time the box theatres are created from Correx sheets, but with polycarbonate screens as before.

Black shadow puppets are being cut out on the puppet makers workshop station. There are lot's of velcro pieces lying around ready to attach the puppets to sticks.

The puppets are made from non-brittle and more easily sanitisable polypropylene – after designs by Susanna Samanek – of an old man and woman, a dog, cat, dragon and ballerina. This time we also have interchangeable hats and the dragon’s wing can be borrowed by the other characters too, should they need to fly off somewhere!

A black cat shadow puppet is propped up on some red scissors in the foreground of the puppet makers workstation. A mermaid puppet can be seen propped up in the background.
Shadow puppets created from designs by Susanna Samanek

The puppets in the kit are just examples to inspire participants to have a bit of fun and where possible make their own characters. The interior cuts (mainly the eyes) were cut using Javanese leather chisels for shadow puppets – but our participants will be making easier versions out of cardboard.

Some of the contents from the shadow kits are laid out on a table, including coloured acetate in pink, green and blue; a heart-shaped cut out and a painted rainbow.
Some of the ingredients found in the shadow kits

Other ingredients of the kit are a reflective mirror board heart and a rainbow, a “magic” pencil case which can be used for amazing lighting effects with the clip lamp or torch, some coloured gels to change the colour of the light/s, some translucent and colourful painted scenery on polycarbonate (of fire, forest and water) and sticks with Velcro to operate the puppets.

We are hoping that people’s creations will also go outside the box – literally - and land on walls and ceilings too with dramatic effect!

A packed up shadow kit ready to go. Inside you can see all of the elements carefully packed away, including the puppets, coloured backgrounds, control rods and velcro tabs.
Could this shadow kit be yours?

We can’t wait to see the results! The outcomes of the project will be exhibited for a month at Beverley Minster following a launch event on June 26th, as well as online via our website and socials.

We have one spare shadow theatre kit left to give out! Do you work at a primary school within the East Riding of Yorkshire and would like to join in with your pupils? Full details on our Outreach page.

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