Louisa Birkin from Giffords Circus on 2013's collaboration with the VERVE team at Pitt Rivers Museum...
Working closely with Nell Gifford, I began to explore these themes. Responsible for the art department, I was looking for design ideas to help tell the story and visual references to use. Nell had been exploring puppetry in the early days of the shows’ development, and in particular shadow puppetry, so this seemed an interesting avenue to explore. We visited Pitt Rivers Museum to see their collections of shadow puppets from the Far East, as well as London to the V&A Museum of Childhood. I loved the effect of the silhouettes, and the idea of these dark figures in motion, on a journey and telling some sort of story.
If you missed this summer's show you can get a taste of it in this short video:
After our season was over, we were offered the opportunity to put on a Giffords Circus display in the Museum. Happy to showcase the prop-making and design aspects of the show, I worked on ideas to include our initial puppet research and demonstrate how it influenced ‘Lucky 13’ and its final design. I incorporated elements of the set design with part of our scenery backdrop, some unusual costumes from the show and humanette puppets that we made and which were used to great comic effect by several of the performers.
As well as being an interesting case to look at, hopefully it will teach a little of the behind-the-scenes work of the circus and, with any luck, reach some new audience members for Giffords. And conversely I believe some of the trusted fans of the circus may now be enticed to visit Pitt Rivers.
"Puppets at the Circus" is free to view on the Lower Gallery until 17 November 2013.