Clarence Fox and Alabama Robin living together in lockdown. Named after my two favourite film characters whose spirit of adventure could surely square up to the days ahead.
To escape from toliet roll news reports and my inbox cancelling events and theatre shows I decided to retreat into a different world. Right at the start of lockdown our abandoned garden shed was transformed into part greenhouse and part studio. At the back of the shed I have a bench, light, tools and spotify. With spring birdsong beginning to fill the air I sat down and started to make Clarence, a fox who spoke and thought like a human, with a particular preference to vodka and wild nights. He was going to be a steady rock to narrate the up coming days.
As the days passed, each carved stroke began to bring a slow peace which was in contrast to the fast changing news reports of a country shutting down. Whilst I sat making him, I started to scribble down thoughts and reactions he would have to the daily news. He has a dry wit that makes me smile. It began to make it a bit more bearable, my escapism was working.
His thoughts needed someone to spar with so Alabama was next in production. I carved two Robins - one that could stand and one who could fly. I wanted to start to play with the movement puppets can allow.
Alabama was given the more nervous energy that the lockdown news can bring and her deep friendship with Clarence is a calming influence on her disposition. Her narrations are sometimes my fears and Clarence provides a voice of reason that goes against the tirade of noise.
Have you ever had to introduce yourself to people and say what you do? Sometimes I find myself in situations where we are all sat in a circle and have to introduce ourselves this way. 'Hi, I'm Ruth and I love making puppets' - it has the air of a crazed AA meeting. Anyway, as confessions go, that one is true. So consequently I decided that Clarence and Alabama needed a few more characters to tell the story of lockdown.
Anouk Squirrel arrived. A teenager in lockdown. This is because I have two teenagers who are both at home with their A level and GCSE exams cancelled and therefore a very long summer holiday ahead. Anouk has a fabulous teenage temperment which covers quite a range of emotions. She is desperate to burn her school books and start her new college life.
A blue sky and a warm spring morning. I sat on our patio with my coffee and the peace of a sleeping household. A small wren appeared just above my head in the tangled leaves of the clematis and proceeded to deliver the loudest song the garden had heard. With the usual daily rush now becoming a memory, this slowed down living was becoming one of the positive consequences of quarantine. The song was fabulous as was having a moment of being still. Consequently a wren was added to the character list, a busy neighbour to Clarence and Alabama.
These characters have voiced the last couple of months, I have a notebook full of their thoughts, their Boris walks, their reactions to events and their optimism - although Clarence does like to cuss ... a lot. Some of them I have shared on instagram and some are just for me. Its been a great way to mark time that has been changing so quickly. It distracted my mind and made quarantine days that little bit more purposeful and easier.
Do you fancy creating your own escapism, a little distraction from the long days at home. This has now become a CREATE-on project that is supported by Tranported Art and they would like to invite you to either write down your own narration of events happening to you during lockdown or make your own characters to voice your thoughts.
A little notebook to use for short sentences that sum up a day or a moment, in your own voice or perhaps through one of your favourite movie characters. It's amazing how using voices of different personalities can help shift perspectives on a situation.
Maybe some paper or cardboard characters would help lift a moment. Created by yourself or your family together.
Or why not go full in and create your own 3D puppet who will be your voice. Are they self isolating, very political or drinking a pint and waiting for this to all blow over? Your call, you'll be in charge and in control of your small world.
If you do make something and would like to share it, please use the hashtag #createon and tag in @transportedart - we'd all love to see how you are doing.
Blog posts to follow for tips on how to make your own puppet characters
Stay home - Stay safe x