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Adrian Kohler reflects on his craft in the Handspring Puppet Company book:
What happens when a puppet doesn’t breathe? Effectively it holds its breath. Without being aware of it, the audience, empathising with the figure (as it must if it is to suspend disbelief) also holds its breath. The tension created becomes uncomfortable. Eventually the audience breathes out and the bond of trust between audience and puppet breaks down.
This quote gets to the heart of Kohler and Basil Jones’s work: They create puppets that breathe. Going beyond mere animism or anthropomorphism, these puppets have been animated with all of the most meticulous details of any professional performer – personalities, emotions, histories and manifestations. And they breathe. Puppets that breathe.
Breathing the tale alight, the Handspring Puppet Company book is published by David Krut Publishing. Edited by Jane Taylor, contributors to the book include Kohler, Jones, Adrienne Sichel, Lesego Rampolokeng and Gerhard Marx. A rare interview with William Kentridge on his collaborations with the company is also printed. Going far beyond the recent international success of War Horse, the book goes right to the beginning of the story.
Chronicling over 28 years of puppeteering, the book may at first seem daunting. However, plenty of lush pictures make the book immediately grab the reader, while Ellen Papciak-Rose’s design keeps the pages turning remarkably smoothly.