Friday, 30 September 2016

Puppeteer Profile: Tom Espiner...

Tom is a Blind Summit Associate who has worked with the company since 2008. He has operated Sorrow in Madam Butterfly in four revivals and worked with us most recently on the development of The Little Match Girl which premiered at Spoleto Festival in June 2016. Tom is Co-Artistic Director of Sound&Fury, a collaborative theatre company that specialises in exploring sound and aural sense in theatre.

How did you start working with Blind Summit?

I was familiar with Blind Summit as early as 2000 but it wasn't until the Edinburgh Festival in 2005 when I was up with my company Sound&Fury that I met them.

I noticed all these interesting chalk drawings of astronauts on the streets and so I followed their trail which eventually led me to the artist - Mark Down. The drawings were promoting the Blind Summit show The Spaceman. I was then invited to take part in a workshop with Blind Summit and a dance group specialising in improvisation in Eastleigh. I had done very little puppetry but I really enjoyed it.

Shortly after that they needed some new people to take over the puppet of the little boy, Sorrow, in the ENO production of Madam Butterfly in 2008 directed by Anthony Minghella and Carolyn Choa. It was hard work but very rewarding!

What's your most memorable experience working with Blind Summit?

I have to say it was pretty unforgettable being part of the enormous staging of the 2012 London Olympics Opening ceremony - kitted out like ninjas we stormed the stage and climbed into the NHS beds housing these huge puppet villains (I was puppet captain for Captain Hook!). Rehearsals always seemed to be thwarted by the weather or technical difficulties but I think it was only on the actual event itself that everything went smoothly including Voldemort's wand which had never sparked off until that evening. As one off, ephemeral theatrical performances go it was a pretty special one to be part of!

What are you working on with your company Sound&Fury?

We are currently in the process of remounting our short piece Charlie Ward which was first staged at the Cinema Museum in Kennington in August 2014 (an amazing building - a real London gem and for some time was where the young Charlie Chaplin lived with his mother). 

Taking its inspiration from the fact that bed-bound, wounded soldiers in the First World War were shown Charlie Chaplin films on the hospital ceiling we have created a piece in which audience members lie on beds and see a Charlie Chaplin film through the eyes of a soldier - using our familiar armoury of moments of total darkness and surround sound, the audience are taken on a strange hypnotic reverie and witness Chaplin as he's never been seen before.