Celebrating 40 | Q&A with Nenagh Watson
The Puppet Centre is 40 years old this year. To celebrate we're catching up with some of the people who have won Puppet Centre bursaries to find out how their eclectic careers have developed. Throughout 2014 we will publish Q&As with some of the UK's finest puppeteers. Here Nenagh Watson talks new beginnings, Punch & Judy, guilty pleasures and current projects.
Describe the how, when and what of your Puppet Centre bursary
This was a special bursary established by the board of directors of doo-cot and administered by the Puppet Centre Trust. It was created as part of a redundancy package when doo-cot ceased trading in October 2007. The major focus was on learning traditional Punch & Judy routines utilising the puppets of the late Joe Beeby. Professor Glyn Edwards gave mentorship and I established an original way of presenting The Boxing Routine. This was first presented at May Fayre Covent Garden 2009.
What are your favourite memories from that period?
Natalie Querol (then director of Puppet Centre) was exceptionally supportive and her kindness enabled me to enjoy the whole process at what was a very difficult time.
How about the challenges?
Learning to use the swazzle was a huge challenge. Punch & Judy is such a different style of performance to my work with doo-cot. I can still remember my fear as I strode into the market place at Loughborough to present a preview of The Boxing Routine. Punch & Judy is a very skilled show if you do it well! I’ve set myself a high bench mark.
How has winning the bursary shaped and influenced your work and career since then?
The bursary enabled me to ‘pick myself up and dust myself down’. I cannot begin to tell you how awful the whole process of the death of doo-cot was. Being informed that I owned none of the puppets I had made for doo-cot over 19 years was a hard blow! These situations can bring the best or worst out in people and unfortunately it bought out a lot of bad behaviour. It was thanks mainly to Independent Theatre Council who advised the doo-cot board of directors to find the most compassionate way forward.
What could you never live without as a puppeteer?
Ha! Well I’m getting arthritis in my hands which is slightly worrying!
If you ruled the arts world, what would you change? (just one thing!)
I would make sure artists are paid a living wage
What’s your guilty pleasure when it comes to culture?
Gallery book shops
What keeps you awake at night?
Where my next research grant is coming from
Describe your life-in-puppetry in five words
Paradise by the back door!
What’s your birthday wish for the Puppet Centre Trust?
A very dynamic new director (Linda Lewis stepped down as director earlier this year)
And, finally, here’s your chance to plug whatever you’re working on at the moment.
Creative Works London has awarded Moving Stage Marionettes a Research in Residence Award. I am the Researcher via Royal Central School of Speech & Drama. I am looking to identify their private collection of puppets that were once owned by Edward Gordon Craig. The intention is to suggest ways of promoting the collection and raise the profile of Moving Stage Marionettes. The director’s Gren and Juliet Middleton are the most generous and inspiring artists with terrific tales. I am really enjoying working alongside them both and their very skilled grandson Stanley.
Nenagh Watson won her Puppet Centre bursary in 2008.