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INTERVIEW: Puppetry director of Babe, The Sheep-Pig speaks about how he got into puppetry, and how the animals are brought to life

PUBLISHED: 12:41 11 April 2017 | UPDATED: 12:41 11 April 2017

Matthew Forbes

Matthew Forbes

Archant

Matthew Forbes used to work on the smah hit War Horse

Children’s show Babe, The Sheep-Pig is coming to Dartford in May.

When Babe arrives at Hogget’s Farm he is taken in by the trusty sheep-dog Fly and discovers a talent for herding.

With the help of his adopted Mum, our polite piglet soon wins over the most suspicious of sheep. But can a small pig make it in a dog’s world, and when his farmyard friends are in trouble can Babe save the day?

We spoke with Matthew Forbes, the puppetry director behind the show to find out how he got into puppetry, and how the animals of Hogget’s Farm are brought to life.

“I trained as an actor at the Royal central School of Speech and Drama, specialising in collaborative and devised theatre,” he said. “This still had all of the elements of a classical actors training, but with a focus on more contempotary styles of theatre.

“Inspired by companies such as Complicite, DV8 and Blind Summit, the course gave me a huge insight into a more visual approach to theatre making. I think this training helped me secure a place in the National Theatre’s hit War Horse.

“I performed in London’s West End for three years, totalling over 1,000 performances. Bringing those puppets to life every day was a huge learning curve and have me an incredible practical puppetry training, very much learning on the job.

“After leaving the performing company, I was asked by the National Theatre to join the creative team for the show, and was given the responsibility of looking after the puppetry on touring and international productions of the show... the rest they say, is history.”

Matthew believes the performers do an “incredible job” of bringing the farmyeard of puppets to life.

He said: “The puppets in Babe are fantastic. They’re been designed beautifully by Max Humphries and Dik Downey.

“The performers do an incredible job of bringing a farmyeard of puppets to life. Babe, out hero, is a fully articulated puppet; he blinks, walks, talks and even wiggles his snout. He totally steals the hearts of our audience, he’s adorable and brought to life by the entire company.”

Training actors to work with puppets is very challenging, Matthew reveals.

He said: “Puppetry is very ego-less and selfless style of performance. As an actor on stage you normally want people to look at you, but when you’re puppeteering you don’t want them to look at you, you want them to look at the object in your hands.

“One of the biggest challenges is to therefore get our puppeteers to disappear. We don;t hide them behind a screen, they’re always visible, but the attention and focus they give to the puppet directs the audiences eye to the puppets, so the puppeteer in effect vanishes in to the background, and we watch the puppet.

“This can take a long time to master, but our wonderful cast make it look easy.”

Speaking of why families should see Babe, The Sheep-Pig, Matthew added: “The show is truly magical, the puppets are beautiful and the cast are incredibly talented. Watching Babe struggle and overcome the challenges that are thrown his way is really inspiring.

“Our little pig has big dreams, he wants to be a sheep-dog. He’s told he can’t be, but he perceivers, keeps trying and doesn’t give up. That is an important morale that we should all remember; when we put our minds to it and try, we can do anything.

“Children and adults will be say on the edge of their seats, following Babe’s journey, willing him on to succeed. The show has original songs and music, it’s funny, will make you laugh and cry, you’ll get completely immersed in the story and you’ll find yourself shouting out and joining in.”

The show will be at Dartford’s Orchard Theatre from May 25-28.

For tickets visit orchardtheatre.co.uk


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