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12 May 2005
Pulling strings gives puppets new lease of life
by Anne-Louise Mazzafiore

Lisa and doll
DNA's puppetry is more than just 'doll waggling'!
  If your idea of a puppet show is of an angry Mr Punch bashing his wife Judy over the head, think again, puppetry has moved into the 21st century! The shows are no longer the preserve of children with productions created for adults too. Rachel Riggs from DNA, a Preston team of puppeteers, told us more about her life as a performer.
SEE ALSO

Jenny's passion for a creative Preston

BBC Lancashire - Going Out

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Rachel Riggs
Rachel Riggs

What's DNA all about then - is it a science thing?
It's an abbreviation of Dynamic New Animation. Twelve years ago it was pretty funky but it's been used a lot since then! Also puppetry is often seen as 'dolly waggling' for kids so the term 'live animation' was created when puppets are performed for adults. We did do a science performance project for the Wellcome Trust last year called 'Genie in a Bottle', devised by young people in Manchester about the future and genetics. It was streamed live on the web and you can still see it today on our website.

How did you get into this line of work?

Trained in Manchester in theatre and worked in Italy mask making, met puppeteers at the Green Room, Manchester and was told about the first
diploma in puppetry at the Central School of Speech and Drama, where I was accepted and met Adam, my partner in life and work. He co-runs DNA and is lead puppeteer, he had previously worked in Australia and Japan.

Why pick Preston as your base?
We had been working hard in London for over 10 years establishing DNA. I'm from the Fylde area and was already commuting back and forth to the North West to direct the Puppet Up! Festivals in Blackpool. So Preston was the nearest city, has great road connections for touring and we had so much support here from the Council's Creative Industries, it felt like coming home!

Puppetry peformance
A lot of work goes into a performance
Where do you start when you're putting together a new production?
I find a story or an idea that has great visual and action possibilities. A story that can be told more effectively by puppetry techniques, then we play with materials and objects in research and development, storyboard scenes and create a visual script for reference. Music is specially composed and text is layered on in a working script.

What shows have you got coming up?
Currently we're touring our new production 'Baba Yaga Boney Legs', an exciting adventure story for 5 to 11 year olds and their families. It's just been in London, Brighton and Chester Gateway and tours nationally. It's ground breaking stuff in terms of combining puppetry with this kind of physical performance! Then it's Glastonbury with the preview of our new 'Puppets A Go Go!' tent full of exciting weird and wonderful puppetry for all ages! 'Puppets a Go Go!' will also be in Preston Flagmarket on July 31st for a fab day of puppet bliss! (see our website for further info).

What advice would you give to aspiring puppeteers?
Just keep on doing it, train with whoever you can, find your niche and you will create your own style!

Sooty the puppet
Sooty - such a sweetie!

Who is your favourite TV puppet, Sooty, Orville or Lamb Chop?
Although I love Sooty (born in Blackpool!) and Orville ( lives in Poulton!) I have to say Shari Lewis's Lamb Chop. I have a toy puppet of
her (lamb chop) and she was the most excellent manipulator and ventriloquist!

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