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NTU students create puppets to tell 1000 years of Nottingham Castle’s history

Earlier this year, Nottingham Castle set Nottingham Trent University’s final year BA (Hons) Theatre Design students a very exciting challenge, to create the puppets and booth to tell 1000 years of history.

NTU puppet team
L to R: (Front row) Katie Stephenson, Kaijuan Huang, Hazel Monaghan, Charlotte Selby; (back row) Sean Myatt, Mark Pitman, Gareth Morgan. Image by Gemma Caseley-Kirk.

The University works with partners who offer invaluable and unique opportunities for its students and one such partner is Nottingham Castle. The Castle, first built in 1068, is an international heritage destination that is currently undergoing a multimillion-pound refurbishment and is due to reopen in 2021.

Whilst its doors are closed, the Castle is preparing to welcome young and old, and everyone in between. For schools and families with smaller children, it plans to use puppets and traditional storytelling techniques, and has commissioned Nottingham-based author Hazel Monaghan to capture its 1000 years of history in 1000 seconds. To create the puppets and their booth, the Castle worked with three final year BA (Hons) Theatre Design (now known as BA (Hons) Design for Stage and Screen (Design for Theatre and Live Performance) students, Kaijun Huang, Charlotte Selby and Katie Stephenson. The dynamic trio were supported by puppeteer Sean Myatt, Senior Lecturer in Theatre Design at NTU, and Mark Pitman, co-Artistic Director of Garlic Theatre.

Design for Edward II abandoning the crown
Design for Edward II abandoning the crown by Kaijun Huang, Charlotte Selby, and Katie Stephenson

In order to fully understand the Castle’s needs, the students worked closely with its Learning Development Officer, Gareth Morgan, and with Hazel the playwright. Together they considered how the show could present the Castle’s history in a fun, fast-paced and anarchic show through glove puppetry, shadow play and the ancient Japanese storytelling method, Kamishibai. Sean and Mark provided practical advice and support, but the work was very much the students’ own.

Sean explained: “The selected students researched into ancient story telling techniques that have connected with communities for thousands of years – puppetry being one of the main elements. They contributed to the narrative making sure it would be appropriate and connect with the castles dynamic history, allowing access to different young audiences.”

Kaijun, Charlotte and Katie found the project very rewarding, working as a close-knit team to successfully fulfil the brief.

Charlotte told us: “It was the best experience I've had at university and I've learnt so many new skills in just this one project. It was so interesting to learn how a professional production meeting works and it definitely taught me to manage my time better. I am super excited to leave my own mark in the Castle's history and hope that my work will continue to inspire children, in the same way that creating this project inspired me.”

Kaijun added: “I appreciated the opportunity to improve my communication skills and solve problems together with others, and also enjoyed learning some of Nottingham Castle’s history.”

For Nottingham Castle, the experience was equally positive. Gareth said: “We were delighted to work with such talented designers as Charlotte, Katie and Kaijun, who created a fantastic booth, puppets, and props for us. I know that younger visitors to Nottingham Castle will be captivated by the wonderful design, delicate puppetry and storytelling techniques used to tell the site’s amazing story.”

Hazel added: “It’s been a huge treat for me to work with three very talented and hardworking designers – knowing that the project was in such good hands meant I could write without compromise.”

The puppets will be performing once Nottingham Castle opens in 2021. Watch this space for more partnership activities between NTU, Nottingham Castle, and our other cultural partners.

NTU students create puppets to tell 1000 years of Nottingham Castle’s history

Published on 18 May 2020
  • Subject area: Art and design
  • Category: Business; Culture; Current students; School of Art & Design

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