Spotlight on … Pauline Venables

Puppet Memories, My Life in Puppetry

Pauline Venables

When giving talks and demonstrations Pauline is often asked “When did you first become interested in puppets?”

Pauline can remember from the age of nine when she made a model theatre in a shoe box. The scenery moved across the back on rollers, and she performed to her friends and their younger siblings at the garden gate.

Pauline’s life in puppetry seems to have come full circle!

Later, she loved the animated films of Lotte Reiniger and the illustrations of Jan Pienkowski, and whilst at college she made a shadow show of the Russian tale of Baba Yaga, the Witch whose house roams the forest on hens’ legs.

One of the puppets was a frog which was a firm favourite with the children, who saw the show and her own children who repeated the show to their friends until sadly the frog and the other puppets fell to pieces.

Pauline continued to love shadow puppets and attended a workshop given by Madam Souhami at the Puppet Centre. Pauline had been a member of Educational Puppeteers since college days and received Animations, the magazine of the Puppet Centre, and it was in Animations that she saw Ray and Joan DaSilva’s’ festival at Marsham advertised. It was there Pauline joined the Guild.

 

So many wonderful puppet shows to see, so many wonderful puppeteers to encourage and assist with ideas and productions. Pauline feels enormous gratitude to those members past and present that she has had the privilege of meeting in the last thirty years.

Every year she has tried to make a new show, either a shadow show or a model theatre production. The inspiration for these entertainments comes from a variety of sources. The shadow shows are either tales from Easop or the Annanssy stories from the West Indies. These are done with a traditional screen and light, but she has also used an OHP for a Nativity. Pauline loves to see the angels flying around the ceiling of the hall or church where she is performing. 

Pauline’s model theatre is based on Robert Poulter’s book and has been adapted for her personal use over the years.

The inspiration for the productions comes from traditional folk tales from around the world and she loves the poems of Edward Lear, Lewis Caroll and the show she worked on during 2021 lockdown, a poem by Hans Christian Anderson. 

One of the first performances she did with the Guild was Edward Lear’s The Owl and the Pussy Cat. It is still one of her favourites and has been performed many times. Pauline loves the nonsense rhymes and likes to make puppets that do unexpected things to make the audience laugh. Pauline has produced several stories from Alice including the Jabawocky and The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.

As well as making the model theatre characters, Pauline and James Bradley made a set of characters almost life sized.

These were for a project with actors which sadly didn’t happen, but the figures were displayed at several Guild events and were used at a friend’s cafe when they held a Tea Party event.

Last October Pauline and James went to the Japanese Cultural Centre and saw a performance of Kamishibai, Japanese story telling. They were both enthralled and are thinking of ways to marry the styles of Kamishibai and Model Theatre together. Pauline hopes that 2022 will be a year when we can all meet old friends, make new friends, talk puppetry and see some shows.