Puppet Animation Festival
Various venues across Scotland, until Sat 26 Apr
Puppetry has come a long way since the days of Punch & Judy on the beach. And puppetry in Scotland has made some leaps of its own. Back in 1984, when the Puppet Animation Festival first came into being, all 12 shows took place at Edinburgh’s Netherbow Theatre. This year, there are 16 productions touring across the country, from the Borders to Shetland.
Not only that, but home-grown talent is no longer in short supply, as one of Scotland’s finest puppeteers, Shona Reppe explains. ‘When I first took part in the Festival most of the shows were from London,’ she says. ‘But what Festival director Simon Hart is doing now is making it possible for lots of really good Scottish puppeteers to take part, too.’
Reppe has been delighting audiences with her unique brand of puppetry for the past 13 years. Initially trained as a stage designer, she swapped professions after an epiphany at the Puppet Animation Festival. ‘I think it’s an amazing festival,’ says Reppe. ‘And it’s the reason I got into puppetry in the first place. I went to see a show in 1995 and thought “Oh my God I want to do this”.’
Reppe’s latest show Olga Volt, The Electric Fairy is a highlight of this year’s Festival. The tale of a Russian fairy whose great, great, great, great, great grandmother was a falling star that fell to earth, Olga has been a new departure for Reppe. ‘Olga’s quite a fantastical show,’ she explains. ‘And because it’s quite surreal I was nervous about how audiences would react to it. I took a lot of risks with it, but I’m really pleased to say that Scottish audiences have been brilliant and really responded to it.’