27 April 2017


It’s been a while since i put anything on here – I have been away with the serious businesses of puppetry and family, along with feeling further daunted by the volume of information I’ve been taking in. I’m very close to the next phase of the reading which will be to get stuck in to writing on puppetry, emotions and aesthetics, now with the added information that I’ve picked up from the psychological,  neurological and  philosophical papers.

The Girl on the Train

As I was on my way to the airport during the Easter break to go and check on some puppets, a family boarded the tube. The elder daughter, perhaps twelve or thirteen, stood a little apart from the others, leaning against the frame of the doors. She had her iphone headphones in and was holding the phone in one hand while she listened. She wasn’t watching the screen, but her whole body was enacting a very specific dance routine in miniature. Her focus was internal; but something in how specific the movements were made it clear that she wasn’t creating a dance to the music – she was remembering and copying a choreography that she was visualising.  (Can I be sure? No – but I was sure). One of the things that seemed striking was that she wasn’t really reproducing the movements she was imagining, but generating reduced versions of them – accurate in intention and accent, but smaller in scale. Whatever our  interpretations of the ‘action observation’ element of perception, it seemed striking to me that her mirror neurons seem to be firing in response to a completely imagined (in this case, remembered) stimulus – a dancer performing only in her mind’s eye was defined enough to activate the full system. “What’s she mirroring?” I asked myself. I’ve a bit more to understand about the role of imagination and how it can hijack our perceptual equipment.

What We Know

I’m getting on to the stage of reading through all my notes and trying to filter them into a manageable format. I have a wonderful opportunity to share these ideas with puppeteers at the O’Neill Conference this year and would like to make the participants the first guinea pigs in determining what about all of this might be interesting to a wider audience. For me,  an inquiry into perception opens up a  very enjoyable hall of mirrors – but for my show I will need something more like a mirror maze, that has an appealing entrance gate, an enjoyably designed route and a satisfying destination (perhaps an ice cream parlour) at its centre or exit. So far I am trying to make some documents that I vainly hope will be single pages: ‘What We Know’; ‘What We Think’; ‘What We Don’t Know’; ‘What Does The Puppet Do?’. I’m hoping that it will help me communicate (and determine for myself) what seems relevant, what seems interesting, and will perhaps suggest some ways forward for the workshop.


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