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Making Music – Our Process

Finding the Rhythm To The Music

When we compose our music for our productions, the process starts around our kitchen table. Not highly technical I know, but all we need is a space to be creative and the kitchen table seems to work well enough for the germination of ideas. Our musical friends come together and we give ourselves a day to do most of the groundwork for the songwriting. This has to be one of my favourite days on our calendar.

Musicians playing their instruments
Playing Out Ideas With Music

Playing with Ideas

Within the story, we will look for the scenes that would benefit from a song or music. Often a song can take you on a journey, explain more of the storyline and convey emotion in a different way than just dialogue. Once we have figured that out and talked about what the song needs to do within that scene we will start playing with ideas. I see it as a bit like writing poetry, looking for rhyming words and finding flow within music and the words on the page. Sometimes a melody will come first and the words are written to fit the tune. Other times words just tumble out and a rhythm is then found to accompany the words.

Writing the songs
Writing The Songs

It’s about listening to one another. Responding to the moment and not being afraid of putting an idea forward for it to be used or rejected. Some songs I find spine-tingling straight from the off. That excites me, wondering how it will feel when it’s sung out into an auditorium of people.

Guitar and playing chords
Music Making – Playing Chords

Some songs compose themselves quicker than others while some songs need more time to develop. This is after all only the beginning of the process. Matt Vale, our musical Director will then develop the musical score into something even more magical. In rehearsals, the actors put their own creativity into the songs so it then transforms into very much a shared collaborative process.

The music making process couldn’t happen without the creative input of Matt Vale, Rob Vale, James Swinburn and Bob Rushton and to them, I feel indebted.

Songwriting
Keyboard and keypad working together

Puppet Making – Our Process

First Steps In Puppet Making

Where do we start in puppet making? In our process, it starts with the story. Everything starts with a story! Once we have that we start to imagine what, where and when the puppet(s) may add to the visual storytelling. Can we add a puppet to help tell a section of the story? Take us on an otherwise impossible journey? Fly through the air, fight a deep sea monster or fall from an enchanted tower.

Types of Puppets We Use

Once those questions have been answered, then we have to decide what style of puppet we need. We tend to enjoy the use of shadow puppetry, tabletop puppetry and object manipulation.

Shadow puppets are just as it suggests, puppets that block light casting a shadow onto a screen or wall. We sometimes add colour and use 3D landscapes to give depth to a shadow sequence. Tabletop puppets are handheld. They need a platform to be seen by the audience, hence the name. Object manipulation is just that, using the same techniques as we use with a table top puppet but using found objects. A suitcase becomes a mouth of a crocodile or a screwed up sheet of paper an old grannies face.

Designing When Puppet Making

Sketches are drawn, ideas are gathered and once we have the feel for the puppet we make further drawings before we start to construct it.

Dinosaur Sketch
Initial Dinosaur Sketch

From these sketches, we develop the puppet into mock-up made of screwed up brown paper and cardboard. If you ever want to try this always add eyes (we have a drawer full of ping pong balls) as it makes everything come alive. This quick 3D version gives us a greater understanding of size and movability.

Initial mock up of a dinosaur puppet
Puppet Making In Its Roughest Form

Next Stages of Puppet Making

In this production, we have come to the conclusion that we need more than one puppet for the same character. This is because the puppet needs to do different things in different scenes.

We use clay to sculpt a version of our final idea from all the sketches we have made.

From this, we create a pattern. The clay version is covered in cling film and then masking tape. When its all covered, we cut it off and make a flat pattern. The finished pieces work in the same way as a  dress makers pattern. Using an Over Head Projector we can scale up the pattern to any size.

The pattern is then cut from closed cell foam, it is just like camping mats, only more robust. All the pieces are glued together and the form can come together quickly.

Pattern Making When Puppet Making
Pattern Making When Puppet Making

Any fiddly bits are sculpted from larger blocks of foam and then we piece it all together.  We work out the jointing system for the legs and head and figure out the mechanism needed to make any moving parts. It always takes longer than we think and is a challenge to make it move right but when it’s finished it is lightweight, strong and will hopefully stand up to the physical use within the run of the production.

Dinosaur puppet in its construction stage
Working Out The Moving Parts

Last Steps in Puppet Making

Once we are happy with the overall look and construction the last job is to paint it. Various sealants, primers and paints are used to create the finished puppet. Often perceptions of how it will be painted changes as the puppet forms and its character emerges. But working the way we do means we have the flexibility to make changes all the time. Many mistakes are made along the way, but its all about working together and solving the challenges that arise when puppet making.

Dinosaur puppet
One Of The Finished Puppets

Designing this puppet has been fun, but it has been a difficult process. Problem-solving has rated highly on this project. Mark has been the real brains behind all the working out and I’ve taken the lead on the fabrication and painting element of this puppet making process. Our budgets are never grand and we are always thinking of ways to make things cheaper. We reuse as much material as we can and always look at what we have in stock before buying any materials.

Time is another great factor. It’s a longer process than you might imagine. Many of our puppets are priceless due to the simple fact of the number of hours it has taken to produce a puppet which may only be onstage for a few minutes. When the puppets are finished you can always see room for improvement and what you would do differently next time. But that’s the great thing about puppet making. You are always learning.

October 2018 Newsletter

October 2018 Newsletter

Designasaurus Workshops
Designasaurus workshops

Half Term Dinosaur Adventures

This October half term we are with DerbyLIVE running workshops for kids aged 3-11 at Markeaton Park Craft Village. It’s a fun interactive workshop that will provide some rip-roaring fun for your little raptors! You can book tickets via DerbyLIVE

 

Dinosaur production image
Our Christmas Production

Christmas Countdown

Can’t believe I’ve used the c-word. Yes, Christmas is on its way. We are already thinking about the festive season and have started making the puppets for the show. If you want to know more about our process look out for more blog posts on our website. There’ll be one on puppet making very soon.

The team at DerbyLIVE have informed us that ticket sales are already going well, and some performances are already limited tickets. (It’s only October!) So if you fancy a seasonal treat come and say hello to us at The Guildhall this December. Book your tickets from the DerbyLIVE website

 

Design sketchbook for The Dinosaur that came for Christmas
Mark sketches ideas for The Dinosaur That Came For Christmas

Designing Our Shows

If you fancy knowing more about how we design our shows head to our website and check out our latest blog posts where we give you insight into our process.

Fun Finds This Month

Sculpture_Geek

Find this talented artist on YouTube and Instagram. Watch them sculpt incredibly detailed models from clay.

Work by sculpture Geek
Sculpture Geek

Top Halloween Activities in Derbyshire

20 places to visit for a Halloween treat

Carved Pumkins
Carved Pumpkins

Red Ted Art

This is a great person to follow especially on Pinterest and Instagram. She is an award-winning blogger and full of inspirational craft ideas for children.

Red Ted Art cute and easy crafts for kids
Red Ted Art

 

How We Design Our Christmas Show

Our Set Design Process

The Babbling Vagabonds design process starts with the story we want to tell and a big sketchbook. We talk about the story and the scenes within it, the characters and the locations. Ideas are important at this stage and we try not to limit our creativity. It’s very much a collaborative process between the three of us. We are not afraid of being wrong when we voice ideas and to be honest I think the three of us have a very special relationship. We don’t censor our creativity, anything is up for discussion.

Sketchbook from The Dinosaur that came for Christmas
Getting ideas and thoughts on a page

Pinterest is a good source of inspiration for us and we have a shared board for the story. We look at characters types, environments, costume and Pin anything we think is relevant to our story.

Storyboarding Ideas

A storyboard of the essential action is drafted. We find creative ways in which to make the locations and where scenes can take place. There is usually only four actors in our Christmas show and whatever is designed has to take that into account.

Design sketchbook for The Dinosaur that came for Christmas
Mark sketches a storyboard for The Dinosaur That Came For Christmas

Making the Model – The World of the Story

This will be our 6th production at The Guildhall Theatre in Derby, we know space well and how to get the best from it. We don’t have to worry about touring the production and making the set fit in different venues, this means we can design a set that is bespoke to the venue. We have a scale model of the theatre and its within this miniature space that we start to realise the ideas from our sketchbooks.

Model Making for The Dinosaur That Came For Christmas
Starting To Make A Model

Making the model is all about playing. It is about seeing design ideas in a three-dimensional form and within this part of the process that you can see if an idea is going to work. We never see things as a problem, always as a challenge, and through design we find solutions. The model helps to see the theatre space as a whole and its often at this stage where you start to understand how certain scenes within the story will play out.

Working model for the Dinosaur that came for Christmas
The Beginnings of a Model for The Dinosaur That Came For Christmas

The model box changes all the time as we search for the ultimate design. Pieces are thrown away to make way for more exciting ideas and solutions. It is a vital part of the design process and an amazing way of sharing our vision. Colour becomes an integral element of the modelling stage and brings together all the elements of the design. The colour palette really helps when we venture into the next stage of building the set. Working as we do means we are flexible and have the ability to adapt throughout the whole process as things may change…again, and again and again.

 

 

September 2018 Newsletter

 

Babbling Vagabonds present A Wild Walk - The Golden Thief Production Image
Wild Walk – The Golden Thief Production Image

This summer has been WILD!

Our outdoor summer adventure feels like ages ago. The kids are back to school and we are now firmly back in the office, report writing, thinking about Christmas and making plans for next year.

We had such fun this summer meeting our audiences. Great to see so many new faces joining our Tribe and heartwarming to see those families who support us again and again. So many fun-filled moments at the various venues we performed at and so many delighted faces as the audience ventured from scene to scene. Just magic, so thank you.

Babbling Vagabonds A Wild Walk - The Golden thief Production Image
High Fives at A Wild Walk – The Golden Thief

Blogging!

We’ve decided to start blogging about how we create our work. It’s a new adventure so there will probably be a few stumbles along the way, but if you want to find out more about our process visit our website or click here 
babbling vagabonds rehearsal
Rehearsal for The Golden Thief

Designasaur Workshop

This October half term we are with DerbyLIVE running workshops for kids 3-11 at Markeaton Park Craft Village. It’s a fun interactive workshop that will provide some rip-roaring fun for your little raptors! You can book tickets via DerbyLIVE

Fun Family Dinosaur Workshop

Writing a Story Babbling Vagabonds Style

Phil has written a blog post about how we write our stories if you fancy having a read.

Fun Finds This Month

FESTE in DERBY

So much street performance to experience you won’t want to miss this!

Feste Derby
Artists Performing at Feste, Derby

Giants of Liverpool

Get ready to walk in the footsteps of Giants. Royal De Luxe are the Worlds Leading Street Theatre Company

Giant Grandma - Royal De Lux
Walking With Giants – Royal De Luxe

Kubo and the Two Strings

We love this film and this is an insight into how they made it. Incredible!

Kubo and the Two Strings
Kubo and the Two Strings

Writing a Story the Babbling Vagabonds Way

Writing a Story

So now we are starting to develop the story for our next family Christmas show, The Dinosaur who came for Christmas. As a company we devise our shows – which means that we don’t start with a script – we begin with an idea, actually, nowadays we begin with a title. So where do we start in writing a story? We have a ‘process’ for creating our work. This has evolved as we have over the past eighteen years and although I don’t think we have ‘rules’ as to how we do it, we have some guidelines.

Firstly – What’s it about?

Well, I find lots of the conversations we have at this stage start with me saying:

“At the moment… it’s about this kid who finds a dinosaur egg!”

There’s not too much in that sentence to commit ourselves to something that we might get rid of at a later stage. Maybe there’s just enough to trigger a sense of excitement and anticipation.

A writers sketchbook
A sketchbook of ideas when writing a story

We’ve learnt a few things along the way particularly about story types. We start to chat about the type of story we think this might be. Is it a quest story? A transformation story? Journey and return? It’s nothing too detailed, we just let ideas play in our heads for a while. Hang about in our imaginations, think through a few ‘what ifs’ and ‘how about’.  I tend to go for long walks on my own, that helps my process. From someone finding a dinosaur egg, and it hatching… well, what could happen? What would be fun to see? What trouble would that bring about? Where is that going to take the characters? ‘what if this happened?’ 

 

Let’s start at the beginning…or at the end…or in the middle!

Sometimes we think about ‘the end’, or a significant moment that might happen ten minutes into the story. It can be really fun to think, how could that happen?

 

We can plot out several storylines, and try those out. What is interesting to us might not be that interesting to a four-year-old, or a seventy-year-old.

We watch films, read books, look at pictures and paintings, listen to music. Adding ingredients to our collective stew. Whether they will end up in the final show, we don’t know yet but they might trigger something somewhere.

Storyboard ideas
writing a story

 

What’s essential!

Eventually, we will arrive at a plot. Nine or ten chapter headings. These are the things that have to happen for the story to work. We call this our ‘Essences’. These are the things that have to happen for the story to progress.

Then we will storyboard ideas. Like a film. Sketch out ideas – how they might look onstage. Sometimes we will bring some actors in to play with rough ideas too. All the time shaping the story, defining characters and events. Adding the ‘groovy bits’. The pieces of the story that adds to the essences, bring the fun, the danger, the excitement.

 

All this will take place over the first few months of the year. We will share our ideas with the producers, they will pitch in ideas. Nobody ‘owns’ the story – we are all onboard adding suggestions to the journey.

It’s really fun. It helps create a very organic show, that grows and twists and turns with the additions brought by the collaborators.

But if you ask me now…

It’s about this Kid, who finds a dinosaur egg.

writing a story

Written by Phil Coggins

Outdoor Theatre For Families And How We Create It

Creating Outdoor Theatre for Families

How do we create outdoor theatre for families? There are a lot of things you have to think about, especially with a show that tours to lots of different places. A big one is the set, the backbone to any production is the scenery, but, with outdoor theatre, it needs to be able to adapt to its surroundings such as rocky terrain, or a hilly area. On top of all that, you have to create something that can survive the weather. So this job is left in the more than capable hands of Babbling Vagabonds Artistic team Tara and Mark who – in my opinion – have created something magical! 

babbling vagabonds rehearsal
Outdoor Theatre for families – Rehearsal for The Golden Thief

The Rehearsal Process

Now rehearsing the show, whilst it is hard work, is also bundles of fun! Creating children’s theatre is all about playing, so we start each rehearsal by playing a few games, having a laugh and helping unleash our creativity. Each individual character within the story is stripped down to the very basics. How do they walk? How do they talk? How do they move their body? This can be very challenging when most of us play more than one character in the show! The characters need to be completely different and larger than life.

Making sure that our characters are big is very important in an outdoor show, as you never know what will happen when you get into the space. You may have people who can’t see as much as others, you may have someone right next to you, or even behind you! So by creating these comically large and exaggerated characters, you’re ensuring every audience member has a good experience.

Rehearsal with babbling vagabonds
Outdoor Theatre for Families – The Royal Scene of The Golden Thief

Story Development

After we’ve spent some time developing our characters, we then leap right into the story. We take each scene at a time and create some freeze frames! These are little snapshots of what happens in the scene, they help us stay on track and have a good idea of what we need to accomplish by the end of the scene. From there we then start adding more detail, bit by bit, until we can start improvising. We’ll make up lines and do the scenes multiple times until we’re happy we have a decently structured scene.

Rehearsal of A Wild Walk the Golden Thief
Outdoor Theatre for Families – Phil and James rehearsing a song

In front of an Audience

What’s lovely about this show is that there is a lot of freedom to play. The show is highly interactive, so no two shows will be the same. We react to what the audience says and does which is why we don’t script the show too heavily. It’s much more fun to adapt the show to the audience we have (and we hope they find it fun too!) This way, I think everyone that comes to see us, will leave having had a completely unique experience.

The Nest Keeper Scene from A Wild Walk
Outdoor Theatre for Families – The Nest Keeper Scene

That’s it for now, but I hope to see you at one of our venues this summer. Come and say hello, and make sure you stay for a photo after the show!

Writer – Company Actor, Emily Jane Vinnicombe

July 2018 Newsletter

Summer Starts Here!

This month sees the start of our summer tour A Wild Walk – The Golden Thief. I’m sure you’ve heard all about it and some of you may have even booked your tickets. If you’re not organised your tickets I’ll make things easy…click here and know that you are going to enjoy spending time with Babbling Vagabonds this summer.
The Gardener presenting the Kings Golden Apple tree in Babbling Vagabonds production of A Wild Walk
The Gardener and the Golden Apple tree

The King Loves GOLD!

As part of our summer tour of A Wild Walk – The Golden Thief, we want you to get creative. We want you to create your own Royal Rosette and bring it along to the show to catch the eye of the King. He just loves GOLD!

We’ve made a short “How To” Video.  Get ready to be creative, it’s not just the kids that get to have fun…you can too.

Rostte making
A Royal Rosette fit for a King

A Meeting of Minds

The Buxton Pavilion project has now culminated in an exhibition called “A Meeting of Minds”. This has been a collaborative project between Architecture students from Derby University, Buxton Junior School, an architect and engineer from Spaces into Places and Babbling Vagabonds. The exhibition is of drawing and models by the students when they were asked to design a community pavilion for Buxton.
There are hopes that this is the first stepping stone in realising a community pavilion that can be built and used for next years Buxton International Festival…so watch this space for developments.

The Exhibition 6th-25th July
Open Daily 10am-4pm
The Mezzanine Gallery
Cavendish Arcade
Buxton
SK17 6AL

A meeting of Minds exhibition space
A Meeting of Minds Exhibition at the Cavendish Arcade, Buxton

Fun Finds This Month

JAM

Online courses to make our kids smarter, engaged and even more creative

JAM - online courses for Kids

Happy Kids = Happy Parents

Visit Peak District gives us some great ideas to entertain the kids

TED Talks Ideas worth spreading

2800+ talks to stir your curiosity

TED logo

June 2018 Newsletter

Time To Get Creative

As part of our summer tour of A Wild Walk – The Golden Thief, we want you to get creative. For anyone coming to see our show we want them to create their own Royal Rosette and bring it along to the show to catch the eye of the King. He just loves GOLD!

Not sure how to make one? Need some helpful hints? We are here to help!

We’ve made a short “How To” Video and posted it on youtube. Click on the photo below and get ready to be creative, it’s not just the kids that get to have fun…you can too.

Click this link www.babblingvagabonds.co.uk  for information on “A Wild Walk – The Golden Thief” the venues and to buy tickets.

A great family production for anyone brave enough to take a walk with a Prince who is trying to find The Golden Thief.

Sharing The Journey In Story Making

Ever wondered how we come up with our stories? Curious as to what techniques we use to get the best story ever written? Well, Phil, Joint Artistic Director will reveal all very soon in a blog post about how we create our story for Christmas. What goes into making up a story and what tools and tricks we use to create something exciting, heartwarming and fun.

Fun Finds This Month

Global Grooves

These guys know how to deliver a carnival, you can get involved too!

 

Aquila Magazine

A fun looking magazine for an inquisitive kid

 

Buxton Fringe Festival 4-22 July

Something for everyone at the Buxton Fringe Festival this year