Everyone knows – the evidence is in almost every theatre – that puppetry has come of age. The days of its being a quirky corner of performance for children have long gone and now it’s relatively unusual to see a show which doesn’t include some. Maybe it’s the Warhorse effect or perhaps the trend was there already.
Less obvious, perhaps, is the parallel development in applied theatre where interest in and, use of, puppetry is growing just as quickly. “But it’s happening behind closed doors, so far fewer people are aware of it,” explains Slavka Jovanovic, Education Manager at Little Angel Theatre .
And it’s because of that growth that Jovanovic has a two day training and development conference coming up on April 19 and 20. “Hands On 2 builds on the success of the one day conference we ran two years ago,” says Jovanovic, who is collaborating closely for this event with Royal Central School of Speech and Drama’s Cariad Astles and the Centre of Research into Objects and Puppets in Performance  along with Matt Smith  from Portsmouth University, a former puppeteer who now lectures in applied theatre with a special interest in puppetry.
The first day, based at Little Angel in Islington, will consist of a wide range of guest speakers and include three panel sessions. Professor Tim Prentki, a specialist in theatre for development and social change from Winchester University  will give a keynote speech to start the day and a plenary to finish it. On the second day the conference moves to RCSSD where delegates will take part in one of five workshops focusing on areas such as the use of puppetry in healthcare settings, with excluded young people, in early years work, with people with special needs and much more.
I asked Jovanovic who she was expecting to sign up. “It’s a very broad interest group,” she tells me, mentioning theatre practitioners, puppeteers, trainers, lecturers, academics, social workers, nurses, doctors, youth leaders and teachers – and that’s not exhaustive.
There are still a few places left for Hands On 2 – anyone interested should contact Little Angel Theatre on 0207 226 1787. The cost is £55 for a single day or £95 for both days. There is a concessions rate of £55 for the two days (contact theatre for details) but Jovanovic and her colleagues are not able to offer discounts on a single day booking.