Friday, 14 March 2014

Pantomime Mice

Do you know what I love most about working with textiles?
It's the simplicity of it all - with just a piece of fabric, some thread, a needle and your imagination, you can create something beautiful, practical or fun (or all three)!

The fabric in this case is a particularly boring, large expanse of grey felt.

We are exceedingly fortunate to have a very talented lady in Johnshaven - Karelia - who has the amazing ability to write pantomime scripts and bring them to life.  Preparations are currently underway for her third pantomime, 'Jack and the Johnshaven Beanstalk'. She has recruited a cast of villagers who have been busy rehearsing for their three performances in the Village Hall at the end of this month. 

 Members of the community have contributed their time, energy and expertise to design the stage layout, plan, make and paint the scenery, organise the lighting, source/ make costumes and props etc.  

What is particularly brilliant about this production is that it has given fantastic opportunities to some of the local teenagers.  They have been involved in various aspects that will be of use to them in their future careers/ uni applications - for example, my younger daughter, Kirsty, has designed the posters, programme & tickets, a teen who's interested in working in the theatre has designed the stage set and another has organised all the lighting.

My older daughter, Eilidh, is appearing as one of two mice.  
She won't actually be seen on stage (which suits her fine!) but she'll be operating a mouse puppet and singing.  

I was asked to make the puppets.  This is something I've never done before, but my recent experiments with old soft toy patterns have taught me a lot about 3D construction with fabric (using gussets and so on) so, safe in the knowledge that puppets could be purchased if I failed in my attempt, I agreed to have a go.

I did hunt online for patterns, but nothing was suitable.  These mice have to have moving mouths and be large enough to be seen from the back of the Village Hall, but not so big that they look too out of proportion to the people on the stage. They have to be poked through a mouse hole on stage, and the puppeteers' arms mustn't be seen.  

Before committing to buying felt I started with a prototype made from one of Eilidh's old school blouses.

This met with Karelia's approval, so I moved on to the real things!

The boring piece of grey felt was transformed into a fairly unidentifiable shape.  
It only started to take on a mousey identity with the addition of these little circles of white and black felt.

Adding these is always my favourite part of making any creature!  
The animal's character changes entirely depending on how you position them:

It still didn't look very mouse-like at this stage...

...but the addition of ears, nose, whiskers and some touches of pink to the ears and mouth have done the trick!  Their first performance is on Thursday 27th March - hope they don't get stage fright!