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Mohsen Nouri: ‘Puppets have an ability to come to life in a way that actors don’t’

Mohsen Nouri. Photo: Robert Day Mohsen Nouri. Photo: Robert Day

After initially training as a prop maker, Nouri has worked on a range of theatre projects as well as in film. He tells Georgia Snow about the Broke ‘N’ Beat Collective, a collaboration between 20 Stories High and Theatre-Rites.

You are heading out on tour with this show. Do you enjoy being on the road?

I think half my career has been spent touring. I started out in 2000 and in the past 16 years almost half that time has been on the road in some shape or form. I doubt I would have had the opportunity to see as much of Britain and the world as I would have in any other job.

What are the ideas behind it?

It involves four different artists bringing some very different forms together, which is really interesting. There is beatboxing, dance, music, spoken word and puppetry. With these different art forms, we are bringing together a variety of stories and they complement each other very well.

Has your background always been in puppetry?

It wasn’t my ambition to be a puppeteer. I first wanted to work in special effects: to be a model and prosthetics maker, using animatronics. I went to art college for two years and then went to the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama to study prop making. It was there that I first encountered puppetry. It complemented my prop-making ambitions but, to my surprise, I found that performing and animating puppets came quite easily to me. When I graduated I was left in a bit of a quandary as to what I should pursue, but my mind was made up for me when I received a phone call letting me know that the Little Angel Theatre in London needed help on a production for six weeks. Six weeks turned into six months and I never looked back.

Why do you think puppetry as an art form has endured?

I think puppets have an ability to come to life in a way that actors don’t. Something that is essentially made of wood or foam or metal can be a human or very abstract thing. It suddenly has a life and the ability to evoke feelings. I think audiences enjoy that magical leap of the imagination.

What are your career highlights?

I worked on a show called Mischief, which was contemporary dance-based. We worked with Arthur Pita, which was a particular highlight for me. I also worked on The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy film with Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. I was working with people I admired. It enabled me to walk on the stages where incredible films that I grew up watching had been made. That did feel like a dream had come true.

CV: Mohsen Nouri

Training: Central School of Speech and Drama (1998-2000)
First professional job: Doctor Dolittle, national tour (2001)
Agent: None

The Broke ‘N’ Beat Collective tours until April

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