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Notes to accompany a talk given at Kidology 2012

For additional information you are welcome to


email Chris
chris@puppetmagic.co.uk
These notes were written when I planned the original
lecture, before I realised I was limited to thirty minutes,
so there is extra information included here which was
not contained in the lecture as presented. Generally
these notes will mean little unless you attended the
lecture. However the list of suitable tricks and the
suggested routine outline should be helpful to some.

PUPPET MAGIC
by Chris Somerville
I have always had a dual love, puppets and magic. Although I have achieved the greatest
expertise and a little fame through puppetry, and specifically with marionette puppetry, it is magic
and Punch & Judy which have dominated the second half of my life as more and more I have
specialised in the entertainment of young children.
For a basic children's entertainment for all manner of bookings you cannot beat the combination of
magic tricks and a Punch & Judy show. This is my standard presentation and has earned me a lot
of money, gained me a wonderful and loyal following of children and parents, and proved ideal for
birthday parties, school shows, and gala and fun day events of all kinds.
There are times when Punch & Judy is not appropriate yet when puppets can still enhance a
programme of magic. This need not be a formal puppet show with a fit-up or booth. In its simplest
form it can be a glove puppet rabbit on the right hand performing over the left arm as a makeshift
playboard. American dealer-magician Gene Gordon used to open his magic act with a little dog
puppet using this technique. British comedian Norman Evans got a great deal from his panda
puppet, again very simply presented using a trumpet to disguise the hand entering the sleeve of
the puppet, and several magicians have employed the idea of a hat, box or basket out of which
the puppet appears. Early pioneers of using a glove puppet to perform a magic trick were Stanley
Thomas, George Blake and Eric C. Lewis.
Slightly more elaborate is the idea of the puppet appearing from behind a table or screen, the
performer sitting or standing alongside. The greatest exponent of this technique was the late Harry
Corbett with his teddy bear creation, Sooty.
I have explored many of these techniques and I would like to share some of my discoveries, ideas
and conclusions.
I suppose the principal advantage of using a puppet in a magic show is that it adds variety and
makes a longer show a possibility.
This use of a puppet in magic has a wide appeal, but is of especial value when dealing with
shows for children under four years of age.
The leader of a pre-school playgroup which I have visited twice a year for six or seven years now
wrote last year:
"We have had a lot of entertainers. We always find you best because you can hold the children's
attention for over an hour. With others, after about half an hour we have to stop them because
they have lost the children's interest." LIZ (Playgroup Organiser).
I doubt very much whether I could sustain such young children's interest for so long with magic
alone, I introduce a couple of puppets to introduce a change of appeal, and I also present a couple
of standard magic tricks in a puppetty way. For example I use a Card Duck - but the duck is not
used as a mechanical toy to produce a card, but is given a life of its own using it as a puppet. I
also use Burtinis Wandering Willie (Hoffman Bonus Genus) as a puppet.
In most of our discussion I will assume we are working to very young children. That is because the
puppet is a superb tool to use with this age. Also under - fours entertainment is a growing,
relatively untapped and quite lucrative area. But you will discover that it isn't only young children
who respond. You can safely include a puppet sequence in shows for up to eight year olds - and
even older children if within a mixed age group.

PUPPET TYPES
Glove puppets - bottom entry
(Hand positions inside)
Glove puppets with moving mouth (Chico)
Glove puppets with back entry (Sam Dalal's Rabbit; Ron Gilberts Rabbit, Living Puppets Rabbit
and Cat)
Mouth puppets (Folkmanis Dog, AS Dog, Living Puppets Dog, Albion/Ron Gilbert round neck dog
- and of course the whole range of Axtel latex vent figures, but they are primarily vent which is not
part of my taste or expertise)
Spring Puppets - raccoon - if you must have one, use it imaginatively - don't do the dealer dem
as an act - maybe vanish in one box and reappear in another (use one of many dove vanish
boxes, or small versions of rabbit vanishes - paper panels, Gung Ho, Dizzy Limit. Or what about
shot from a Canon, and reappear in box hanging from ceiling?
Such mini illusions can be done with any puppet.
Marionettes.
Visibility - formal use impractical. Dance round kids on floor.
Very short strings on table - limited - could do card trick. Magnetic foot or mouth or beak - without
shimmed card (ie use a keeper under card) What about magnet in bottom. Little clown puppet fails
to find card. Sits down to think. Stands up with card sticking to bottom?
Grand Turk - with row of kids.
Cardboard jumping jack - Charlie or Skeleton - mention 3 fold screen idea.
Sock puppets
Could use in a snake basket type routine
Could magically change a sock or number of baby socks into a sock puppet - perhaps in a
changing box a la Chinese Cabby, or what about custom made changing bag where mouth of bag
(one compartment) is stitched to sleeve of puppet. Plunge hand in, upturn, and puppet emerges
from the unstitched bottom of that section of the bag.
Glove Puppets uses A) As a personality (Shy, Is this a party?, Can I kiss all the girls)
B) As a comedian (Mop, Hammer, Ice Cream, Water pistol, cream cake/custard pie.)
C) As a magician. We will discuss suitable tricks later
D) As a participant/ assistant in your magic. Spring puppets, and back-entry puppets good as
assistants in mini illusions. (Vanish and produce the puppet. Shoot from cannon. Dizzy
Limit)(Mention Eddie Burke idea for Blendo. Borrow little handkerchiefs from little stuffed animals
and use to perform Blendo. Eddie just mentioned they belonged to his Teddies, but why not have
the actual animals and talk to them?)(Mention Eddie Burke's routine for "Seated Talking Bear")
E) As a playmate (Sooty's chipshop, Washing day, car mechanic, playing with woodworker tools,
look in toyshop for ideas, playing shop, Early Learning packets and foodstuffs. Mention Lili Lon
format)
F) As actors for the children to use (3 Little Pigs)

CHOOSING A PUPPET
Things which might influence the choice of a puppet:
UNIQUENESS
Problems with buying popular (fashionable) puppets
1 If everyone else has same model of puppet, especially if used in publicity pics, then you can lose
bookings by mistake.
2 Many nursery schools purchase Folkmanis and Puppet Company puppets (eg Dulux Dog in
small and large versions)
3 If you were lucky enough to get any exposure on TV you wouldnt want to use a generally
available puppet.
4 By the way DONT copy existing characters, Sooty, Noddy, Rupert etc. Its theft.

Dont think you wont be caught - anyone can post on Youtube.


APPEAL Cuteness. A good idea is to try one or two different figures by showing to kids.
They may surprise you with their preferences. For example I find that small glove animals have
more appeal than big ones.
PURPOSE Where will it appear and what will it do?
If it is to appear behind table or from inside a box, and if it is to handle props then a smaller glove
puppet is best.
If it is mainly to be used in Walk-about and Meet-and-Greet situations then a big puppet, such as
the Ron Gilbert style, is favourite.
CHOOSING A GLOVE PUPPET
Is the glove big enough to get hand in easily and quickly
Are the arms too short, too long, are the hands too big? (eg Colonel Bluster)
Are the hands set low enough so as not to foul the head?(Dressed White Rabbit)
Dont worry about sleeve length which you will usually need to extend.
Has the puppet got any personality?
Do you think the character has appeal for children?
If possible try various puppets with children to see what they take to. (Use children of the target
age!)
Are the puppet features (eye, mouth, profile) strong enough to carry to back of a medium size
school hall?
Dont get seduced by the cuddly toy factor. Illustrate with 2 sheep.
Mirror Test - Does the puppet look! Can the puppet see? Are the eyes alive? Is the puppet alive?
Props Test - can the puppet pick up, put down. Do you feel happy and confident handling things?
Is the head so big that it interferes?
Colour - avoid a black puppet if you wear a black jacket. Avoid a white puppet if possible.
WHEN YOU HAVE FOUND A PUPPET YOU LIKE BUY AT LEAST TWO. Puppets wear out. They
do not stay in stock forever. A
duplicate puppet often handy.
(Uses of a duplicate puppet - 1. Vanish and recovery 2. on stick behind pulpit.)
Do YOU like the character? Can you learn to love it? Can you believe in it?
CHOOSING A MOUTH PUPPET
The same considerations of personality apply to all puppets.
You have no hands to worry about but the mouth is a new consideration.
Is the mouth movement adequate? Is it wide enough? Can the movement be clearly seen? Is the
movement restricted by too much
stuffing?
Move mouth rapidly to see if fingers stay in position - do they tend to slide out?
Remedies - line with different material - elastic - grip strip.
Is mouth deep enough to do the sponge ball move?
Can you slip hands in and out of jaw to pull silk inside for eating move?
Can puppet be convincingly supported while leaving left hand free? Check in mirror.
Do YOU like the character? Can you learn to love it? Can you believe in it?

FIT-UPS - How to display your puppet.


Seated or standing. (Aim for puppet slightly above audiences eye-line. Seated more intimate for
small audience. Seated best if you are on a stage. Standing most visible for a larger audience.)
Simplest is puppet over arm,(and very visible.)
From a hat - hole in hat or from behind. (Show top hat with hole, and opera hat technique.)
Show shoe box. Show folding box.
Most ideas can be either seated or standing.
Mention stool on castors.
Monster Table with Castle - mention Ron Gilbert variations based on Sooty ideas. Mention Sooty
at Brown Muffs
Pulpit Screen - introduce idea of second playboard.
Black Star table
Frances Ireland Suitcase and Bill Abbot Chico variation
Box or structure on table - Mention Plastic Carton on table - Mention Supreme Animal Crate
(Magicians Cave do one) - Mention David Ginn 3 sided box. Show folding box.
Hat on table.
Standing behind or standing alongside.
Start on arm, then move to a playboard situation.

MANIPULATION - Making your puppet come alive.


Main hand positions.
Eye Line - Eye Line
Look at puppet.
Use a mirror only at first - good for discovery but not for rehearsal. Video yourself - better than a
mirror.
Becoming familiar with your puppet - watch TV together.
You have to break down the embarrassment you feel talking to the puppet. Easier when you get
with small kids and you see how real the puppet is to them.
Start by introducing a puppet into your youngest birthday party shows. Once you see how well the
children respond to the puppet you will gain confidence in using a puppet with older children.
How to get into a puppet routine.
Suggestion 1. Have you noticed that blue box?
Suggestion 2. What are you doing in there?
(Hat or box after Classic Die box, or ABC blocks - puppet loaded in box via lid, or Hat as in rabbit
load.)
This approach useful if you just want to use puppet, without a routine, as a production item. Eg
produce a rabbit in a hat and then vanish via tip-over box or Dizzy Limit.
Suggestion 3. Now we are going to meet .... I'll see if he's in there? (Dog in sports bag; knock on
box or house and puppet pops up. Mention Ron Gilbert houses or Supreme's animal crate, or my
adaptation of Supreme Chinese Folding Box. Mention Ron Gilbert House and Castle routines)
Suggestion 4. Make a puppet by magic - put coloured socks in box - produce a sock puppet.
(David Charles stocks a range.)
Or Flat change bag - put in fur and eyes and wool bits. Plunge hand in - upend, and lift bag off to
reveal Teddy Bear.
Getting a puppet on and off hand.
Keep alive even when not seen.
segue in and out of the rest of the show.
Start on arm and move to playboard.
When using whispering technique then write a script for the puppet so that you know what he is
saying. Mention Lili Lon jiggles!

THINGS TO DO WITH A PUPPET


1. Use simply as a production item in lieu of the real thing (perhaps rabbit or cat). Can also
vanish in Bengal Net, Gung Ho or Break-down box.
2. As a personality. Perhaps use to meet and greet. Perhaps to lead a singsong.
2. Use puppet in a single trick routine - cat in balls up basket.
3. Use as a performer, that is the puppet shows you tricks or handles props or plays a musical
instrument.
4. Multiple puppets. Use several puppets in a routine - use the formula of a chain or quest:
a) You have several cute puppets, perhaps farmyard animals. Link them in a chain. You greet
each one, introduce the next, until you
reach one where you have a routine.
eg: Cow - cant stop to talk because she has to deliver milk for the farmers breakfast. Here
comes the dog. He cant talk because
he is doing a job for the farmer. He is escorting the sheep to a new field. The Duck cant stop for a
chat because he is going for his
morning swim. The Hen cant stop because she has laid an egg and is taking it to the farmers wife
for her breakfast. Along comes
the rabbit - oh yes, he can stop and talk, in fact he has a new magic trick he wants to show you.
b) Another formula is to have a variety of puppets each making preparations for a birthday party.
eg: Mouse appears with brush.He is cleaning up for a birthday party. Who's birthday? It's a secret.
Hello Mr Fox.
Not "Mr", its Professor Ferdinand Fox
What are you Professor of? Music.
He plays keyboard.
Must practice - to play happy birthday - it's for a party.
Who's birthday party? It's a secret.
Bobby Bear comes on. Says he's baking a cake.
Chick pan routine.
Include variation of bang gun. Gun fires to show "Happy Birthday" banner. You read it.
Who's birthday?
Bobby says it's his.
We all say happy birthday Bobby.
Reveal the cake.
We must put it away safely until the party.
5. Let the Children hold the puppets as you tell a story.
eg. 3 Little Pigs - using small puppets and scenery of cards on sticks

TRICKS & PROPS


Scale of Props - appeal of toy train miniatures -a la Sooty- mention chip shop - Early Learning
Centre for ideas.
Conversely out of scale props are amusing - big bottle.
Puppet gets head stuck in ghost tube.
Big props are more visible.
Mini Bang Gun

Large Hammer. A surprise!


Water Pistol to water wilting flower in pot - you get squirted.
Mini Fire Extinguisher - currently available in ASDA - get one while you can.
Pop off Ice Cream Cone. (No, I wont lick it - promise etc)
Mop - Cleaning first playboard and then magicians face.
Cleaning with Brush and Pan.
Book of Instructions.
Puppet works a break-away wand on you.
Puppet asks for a silk. He carefully folds it. Oh, what is he going to do with it? He loudly blows his
nose.
Or puppet cries, magician wipes his eyes with a silk. Puppet grabs silk and blows his nose.
Shaving foam in a dish - a cream cake? Let me see puppet pushes it in your face, cream all
over your nose.
Playing a musical instrument: Keyboard, xylophone, bells

Dont forget dressing up. A lot of fun might be had with a puppet, a mirror, and hats and
moustaches and glasses etc.
Dont forget fun that can be had from a blindfold.
Putting on a jumper. Adding a scarf (Demo with mouse or bear puppet)
Mention Build-a-bear football strips, cool clothing, accessories.
Dont be afraid of NOT always doing magic tricks. Part of the puppets value is to add other
elements to your show.

TRICKS
Puppets can do more than find a chosen card.
Birthday Card Silk using one hand change bag and a puppet.
Small Square Circle to produce silks - but also carrots for a rabbit, cheese for a mouse, sausages
or a bone for a dog.
Card Catapult.
Card Fountain
Chick Pan - alphabet soup - Kan-u-go cards - spell happy birthday on ribbon.
Chick Pan as a toy machine - produce football. (Perhaps selected from cards)
Chick Pan to produce sponge birthday cake.
Chick Panto produce 36 inch silk for finale display (Curtain rings, you hold one and puppet the
other - your arms outstretched.)
Silks and Flags from two tubes. Magnet in playboard could hold load chamber firmly in place.
Sand Castle in Bucket. Puppet wears sunglasses. Shovels in invisible sand. Magician says
he cant see any sand.Puppet produces a giant pair of specs for the magician.
Coin Vanishing Stand - coins in glass. Mention Pat Page trick with bag.
Large size ball vase.
Small size Coffee vase.
Slate with flap.
Silk vanish via small Gung Ho box, or Silk Cabby etc. with reproduction in a Clatter Box held by
magician. (Pin can be pulled by puppet, or maybe by anchored thread?)
Card Castle made with miniature cards.
Supreme Silk Factory, Roy Van Dykes trick ideal for puppet.
Thumb tip vanish - the late David DeVal had nice idea with teddy bear and a fur covered thumb
tip.
Various versions of Blendo and 20th Century Silks are possible with a puppet.

A NURSERY ROUTINE
This is a Nursery Puppet Act where one of your tricks leads first into the production of a puppet
and then leads into a puppet routine which you perform from behind a low screen. You remain in
full view with the puppets.
Perform the ABC blocks trick
( Use a folding cardboard box. Show flat first, then unfold to hide blocks in. Box is made like fold
flat puppet box with hole in the back to load puppet rabbit at end. Alternatively use hat and
contrive to load in puppet at the end.)
As you are putting blocks away, and the hat spot white rabbit in the hat.
"What are you doing there?"
Chat.
Rabbit says there are more puppet friends waiting at the back.
Retire behind screen to find them.
Rabbit goes off to look.
Mouse appears - magician fails to see him but kids do.
Monty cleans playboard -and you!
He is cleaning up for a birthday party. Who's birthday? It's a secret.
Monty off - fox on.
Hello Mr Fox
Not "Mr", its Professor Ferdinand Fox
What are you Professor of? Music.
So you play an instrument? Bagpipes? No. Accordion? No. Drums? No.
He plays keyboard.
Help fox ready keyboard (Maybe attach fake amp and speakers)
Plays Jingle Bells (manually)
then play twice (auto)
Puppet bows etc.
Must practice - to play happy birthday - it's for a party.
Who's birthday party? It's a secret.
Fox off.
Oh dear, he's left his equipment.
Bobby Bear comes on. Agrees to put keyboard in a safe place.
Then he tells me he's brought me a surprise. Hammer gag.
Then he says he's baking a cake.
Chick pan - flower, sugar, milk.
Puts lid on.
Gets big box of matches.
You remonstrate - no matches - only grown ups - might cause a fire.
Bobby argues, then produces fire extinguisher. Squirts audience. Squirts you.
No fire, we'll use magic.
Do you want my magic wand? No, Bobby has a magic gun.
Don't point it at me.
Gun fires to show "Happy Birthday" banner. You read it.
Bobby says "It's a birthday cake."
Who's birthday?
Bobby says it's his.
We all say happy birthday Bobby.
Reveal the cake.
We must put it away safely until the party.
You say that you are showing some more magic to the kids - so you'll see Bobby later.
Carry on with the rest of your show.

BOOKS WITH PUPPET ROUTINES


Modus Operandi by Eric Lewis Book - snake in box.
Open Sesame by Eric C. Lewis and Wilfred Tyler - Rabbit in Hat with Slate and Silk - Monkey and
Tambourine Rings - A spelling Routine for a puppet. Also see The Jumping Clown. (Jumping Jack
Routine)
Entertaining the Under Fives by Malcolm Yaffe - Finnegan Fox routine.
Magical Beginnings by James Breedon - 2 excellent Puppet Routines.
Kid Stuff Vol. 1 by Frances Ireland Marshall - The Puppet Rabbit Routine.
Kid Stuff Vol. 5 by Frances Marshall - Puppet in the House routine by Bill J. Weldon.
The Birthday Party Business by Frances Marshall - several routines by Jim Reilly.
Puppetrix Supreme by Stanton Carlysle - mostly theoretical but you can get ideas.
Bunty Bunny - Ravelle and Andre.
Sam Dalals Rabbit comes with a booklet with lots of ideas.
Laughter All The Way by Ron Bishop - Panda and Robbie Rab routines. Also idea for a table sit
down theatre.
Television Puppet Magic - Ian Adair. Compilation of ideas from many sources.
How to Entertain Children with a Glove Puppet by Pat Page.
Entertaining with Arm Puppets by Ron Gilbert.
Glove Puppets, Routines and Props by Ron Gilbert - a host of ideas.
Magical Mystery Time Machine by Paul Osborne includes the The Magician & The Puppeteer by
John Linsie (1970 series from Abra.)
Magigram Vol 19 No 10 June 1987 - The Rabbit Magician by Jean de Merry.
Magigram Vol 4 No 7 March 1972 Portable Puppet Theatre by Maurice Phillips.
Bunty Bunny - leaflet of ideas by Ravelle & Andree, published by Supreme.
Entertaining with Puppets by Russell J Hall - 2 routines, The Spelling Lesson and The Birthday.
Abra 2963 (November 9 2002) With Children in Mind by Maurice Day - Puddles the Puppy routine.
Kiddie Patter & Little Feats by Samuel Patrick Smith. - Rabbit routine and Alligator routine.
Magic with a Hand Puppet by Bill Kustes. Not entirely practical but does offer some ideas.

Some of these books are still in print but many are not. Adrian Harris of
Perth has a very big stock of second hand magic books and quite a few
puppet books. To get any of the above he would be my first place to try.
Failing that most books can be found via Amazon or Al Libris, or just
type second hand books in Google. It is quite amazing how you can
locate even the most obscure books using the internet.
Adrian has a website, but his stock of books is far greater than those
listed on his site. It is worth contacting him.
Website: www.secondhandmagic.com
Email: adrian@secondhandmagic.com
Phone: 01738 628985
Write: 3, West Main Avenue, Perth, Scotland PH1 1QZ

A Good Puppet Maker


When people ask me for a maker of Punch & Judy puppets I always recommend
Miraiker Battey. She carves lovely puppets, is not as expensive as other makes,
and is a helpful and delightful lady to deal with. She will also make other puppets
to order, and will even alter and adapt puppets.
Phone Miraiker on: 01437 831365
Email her: batteyspunch@aol.com
Write to: 79 Station Road, Claydon, Ipswich IP6 0HS
Her professional website is
www.batteyspunch.com