By Vincent Meyburgh
Last year on one of the darker days of lockdown I was contacted by Dr Wendy Taylor who is a palaeontologist and educator at UCT, and avid puppet theatre enthusiast. She was inspired by the idea of creating a puppet program about all the wealth of natural and cultural heritage we have in South Africa. Together with Dr Thalassa Matthews, manager Miranda Tait and designers Sean and Angela MacPherson we developed the concept and funding proposal which was soon accepted by DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in the Palaeosciences at WITS and we got to work.
The concept became “Puppet Planet” which holds the many possibilities of a series of adventure episodes for children between 6 and 10 years of age and their families. The first episode is called “Thandi Finds a Fossil”. The main protagonists of the story took shape as Thandi a 9-year-old girl living on a farm in the karoo and her dog Oogies who has the magic to travel them both through time.
A trilingual script for episode one was developed with members of the cast Joce Engelbrecht (Afrikaans) and Siya Badi (isiXhosa). Once the puppets took shape puppeteer Naledi Tlailane became Oogies the dog with such energy and life like quality it inspired the rest of the cast to step up their puppetry game. Zizipho Gcasamba took on the role of the giant frog as well as the butterfly and Gershan Lombard composed music that took us back in time.
The shoot took place at the Masque Theatre with all-rounder film maker and musician Jannous Aukema. Adam Carnegie designed an introductory animation, and the edit was complete. It was a massive learning curve for all of us who are accustomed to theatre.
It has been an honour for me to work with these incredible people. I have been challenged and surprised by the journey of directing this work. Now it is finally ready. Have a look at the trailer and prepare yourselves to be blown away by the time the video is released in April.