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Local Puppet Pioneers

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17 Jun 2019

Local Puppet Pioneers

We all know Vauxhall embodies the essence of what makes London so special. The contrast between classic and modern buildings, brands to discover next to those you already cherish and innovation sitting alongside time-honoured craftsmanship.

As expert puppeteers, Andy Brunskill & Jimmy Grimes are top of their game. Having met working together on the critically acclaimed Warhorse, this duo quickly found a strong working rhythm and have been inseparable ever since. As neither has received formal training in this niche craft, the pair work in a traditional way – favouring hand-drawn sketches over CAD wherever possible. Having received commissions from theatre shows, events experiences, TV and film, Brunskill & Grimes get excited “When we discover new things that throw us off a bit – we enjoy that challenge!”

 

The key to their success is that the duo try to find stories that really feel they need a puppet – they must be central to the narrative. Another crucial factor is creating the puppet to look like it’s unpredictable and can do anything. This creation must have the dexterity to achieve a wide range of movements and emotions in the production – even if these are never used. “We are mad about the detailed performance of puppets alongside actors – really pushing the art form”, says Andy. “As animals don’t speak in the real world, the challenge is telling their stories through what they are physically doing. We have to learn how they work and how they express themselves without using stock, cliched expressions and therefore allowing the audience to connect emotionally.”

 

Noting their humble journey into this craft, skills sharing and demystifying the performing arts is also very important to Brunskill & Grimes, so collaboration is a key part of their approach. Being mentors, giving advice and consultancy is a frequent occurrence; the duo recently ran workshops with people from all over Europe and they are keen to do more of these in the next 5 years. With this sense of self-awareness abundantly clear, Andy reflects that, “Puppetry is a white male dominated industry. Whilst we can’t change that we are two white male puppeteers, we can try and create some diversity by trying to employ people of different backgrounds and genders.”