History

PuppetCraft was set up in 1990.

PuppetCraft is one of Britain’s most acclaimed touring puppet troupes, presenting a wide range of shows and workshops to a spectrum of audiences, from children to families, and to adults. It is noted for a combination of beautifully crafted puppets with specially composed music.

The content of shows extends from traditional folklore of different countries, to original modern tales. The company varies from 2 to 12 performers, makers, musicians.  Touring throughout the Southwest, nationally and internationally.
PuppetCraft performs in village halls, theatres, arts centres, primary and secondary schools, colleges, barns, marquees, sports-halls and sometimes outdoors.
Festival performances include Bath, Salisbury, Canterbury, Glastonbury, Swaledale, St Donates Story-Telling, Cheltenham Literature festivals. Internationally PuppetCraft has performed at Dublin Puppet Festival and in Germany, Zimbabwe and Sweden.

Places where PuppetCraft has performed include:

Bath Puppet Festival, Theatre Royal Festival, Salisbury Festival, Canterbury Festival, Totnes Word-Play festival, Swindon Literature Festival, Glastonbury Festival, St Donates Storytelling Festival in Wales, Cheltenham Literature Festival, Belfast, Dublin Puppet Festival, Battersea Festival, Brighton, Glasgow, Germany, Zimbabwe, Sweden.
In primary and secondary schools, colleges, village halls, theatres, barns, tents, sports-halls, outdoors…..

Comments

“I consider the work of PuppetCraft to be of a very high quality and would recommend it without hesitation to any venue looking for exciting puppet-theatre.” Dartington Arts.
“A simple story, beautifully staged.” TimeOut.
“The whole piece has wit and charm, to delight both children and adults” Daily Telegraph.
“Brilliant show – the audience was spellbound. The most magical puppet show I’ve ever seen – utterly transporting us into another world. Everything I could wish for adults and children.” Village Hall organiser.

Awards include:

Puppet Centre/Arts Council bursary to study the secrets of traditional puppetry in China for 7 months.
Year of the Artist residency in rural villages.
Nominated for the Lawrence Olivier Awards for outstanding achievement.
Eight project grants from The Arts Council.

As Deputy Director of the Little Angel Theatre for 10 years John made, directed, performed and coordinated puppet tours to international festivals in Europe, U.S.A., Scandinavia, Japan, Malaysia and China.
“John Roberts is one of the most talented members of the puppet theatre profession in Britain”.
Penny Francis MBE, General Secretary of the Puppet Centre, London.

PuppetCraft shows
Commissions, consultances, workshops… and more

2014 – 2017
Monkey!

A new version by Michael Rosen of the ancient Chinese epic.
A full theatrical puppet show for the whole family… perfect for ages 4+
Stunning string puppets, antique shadow puppets and live music.
186 performances.
Arts Council funding.

 

2011 – 2013
Circle of Tales

A myth from Africa retold to PuppetCraft by Gcina Mhlophe, Africa’s most exciting storyteller.
A puppet show with live music for the whole family from 4 years old.
Performed 104 times by 2 puppeteers and a musician, all around England and Wales.
Arts Council funding.
Kadialy Kouyate

 
2008 to present
The Tin Forest 

A puppet show without words.
Based on the book by Helen Ward, illustrated by Wayne Anderson, published by Templar.
A re-cycling story for family audiences… aged 3 and up.
Two puppeteers using Bunraku-form puppets accompanied by a musician playing hurdy-gurdy, harp and hammer dulcimer. 170 performances on nation-wide tours.
Arts Council funded.
Tin forest workshop

 
2006-2010
Perseus and the Gorgon’s Head

By Adrian Mitchell based on the Greek Myth.
A play performed by people and puppets for adults and brave children over 7.
Songs. Puppets. Live music on the bouzouki.
Performed by three puppeteers and two musicians.
66 shows performed around England.
Arts Council funded.

 
2005 to present
Nobody Rides The Unicorn

A magical, gentle show based on the book by Adrian Mitchell. Rod puppets, live music and video projection. Performed over 200 shows.
Arts Council funded.


2001 – 2003

The Amazing Adventures of Sindbad

Commissioned from Devon writer Patrick Cooper. A string puppet show that carried a “nomadic tent” for the audience to sit in. 106 shows.audience


1999 to present

The Mousehole Cat

Based on a well- known children’s book. Performed by Rachel Miller, musician and narrator, and John Roberts. Toured very successfully to over 200 schools, theatres, village halls and festivals throughout Britain and Ireland.
Seen by 36,000 people and still being asked for.
Tom and Cat

 

1997 to present
The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde

A two-hander for primary school, village hall and theatre touring. Puppets, song and live music for ages 4 years +. Narrator/musician and a puppeteer.
180 performances and still counting.
GIANT


1996 – 2001

Tristan and Isolde

A large scale production with live music and song, written by Nick Stimson for PuppetCraft. For older children, family audiences and adults. Toured to 40 secondary schools in the South West and 60 public venues, nationwide and to Ireland.
Arts Council funded.
Tristan and Isolde

 

1994 – 1995
Sir Fool’s Quest

A large scale production with live music and song, written by Adrian Mitchell for PuppetCraft.
Five performers used hand puppets, water puppets, marionettes, giant dragons and 28 musical instruments. For family audiences.
103 performances in 75 venues, nation-wide, and toured to Ireland and a puppet festival in Germany.
Funded by South West Arts and Arts Council.

 
1996 – 2004
The Pied Piper

Based on Robert Browning’s poem.
Recorded music composed by Ian Wellens. Performed by two puppeteers, using glove and string puppets. Toured to primary schools, village halls – nationally and to Ireland. 
250 performances. Seen by 32,500.

1991 – 1995
What Next?!

Short studies exploring a variety of traditional and modern puppet forms. A two performer show for small scale venues and schools. Often linked to workshop sessions. For audiences ranging from primary school children to adults.
210 performances.
What next

 
1990 – 1993
The Bewitched Baobab Tree

Large rod puppets retell an African legend, accompanied by a narrator/musician playing an array of African instruments. For Theatres, Arts Centres and Schools up to 400 seats.
Performed by 4 puppeteers and a musician. 55 performances.Bewitched Baobab Tree

 

 
2024
Large puppet

Private commissions for a large puppet as a tribute to Amy Johnson the first woman to fly solo from London to Australia, in 1930.

2022
Small puppets, big projections

An ambitious collaboration between Dartington Community Choir and PuppetCraft to perform Dvorak’s cantata The Spectre’s Bride, with 100 singers, orchestra and small marionettes which were projected live onto the enormous wall of the Great Hall.  Video by Tim Dollimore/The Media Workshop.
Arts Council funding.

2022
Jazz, story and puppets

Puppets made for a fantastic, sexy mix of jazz, story and jazz. 

2021
Puppet Exhibition

John has been asked to curate an exhibition of puppets at the Devon Guild of Craftsmen. He will be displaying 70 puppets from around the UK… and the world.

2019
Museum

Made puppets for Looe Museum, Cornwall.

 
 
 

1990 to present

Carving courses

Annual puppet carving courses in Devon, tutored by John Roberts, draw students from around the world.
For 32 years has run puppet carving courses for adults: including at Little Angel Theatre, Horse and Bamboo, Norwich Puppet Theatre, West Dean College, Central School of Speech & Drama, Puppet Place, in Sweden, Zimbabwe and Charlesville Institute of the Marionette.
“Excellent … covered all aspects in a short time…. very good tuition… the best course I have been on.”

 
 
 
2017 -2018
Books

John Roberts has written two book on puppet making.
Carve a marionette a step-by-step guide on how to carve a wooden marionette. Published by PuppetCraft. “Very inspiring. The best step by step guide available by far.” Comments from readers.
Making simple marionettes published by Crowood. “One of the best books ever published on puppet-making at a widely-accessible level.” Reviewed by a reader.

2017
Nellie

Made a transforming string puppet on commission for Story Telling project Mazed.

 
 
 
 
Commision

Design and made a small puppet for Broken Puppet Company.

 
 
 
 
2016
Nice Fish

Made puppets with Jan Zalud, Lyndie Wright & Keith Fredrick for a West End production starring Mark Rylance.

 
 
 
 
 

2016 to present
Boy, sister& foal

Private commissions for large rod puppets.

 

 

 

 

 
2013
The Double by Dostoyevsky

Made human size puppets for The Ustinov Studio, Theatre Royal, Bath.

2012
The Dufay Collective

John directed puppetry for a try-out of a new work by The Dufay Collective and Vivien Ellis in The Great Hall at Dartington.

 

 
 
 
 

2009

Meerkat puppets

Made two puppets for a ‘Compare the Meerkat’ TV campaign.

2008
Brains Drench TV advert

Made and performed a “Brains” puppet for TV and online advert for Drench water.

 
 
 
 
 

2007

Give us a Hand!

Directed “Give us a Hand!” for the Little Angel Theatre, written by Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen.
A celebration of the puppetry of John Wright who founded Little Angel Theatre in 1961.
“Impeccable show … seamlessly glued together” The Stage

 

 

 

 


2005 -2008  

South Downs College

Commissions for puppets to be used by student.

 
 

 

2004
Venus and Adonis 

Carved puppets for The Little Angel Theatre/Royal Shakespeare Company production of Venus and Adonis- an adult puppet masque. Show was London’s critics choice for 3 months.

 

 

 

 
All Change!

Designed, made and directed puppets for “All Change!” at The Anvil, Basingstoke: a large scale music-theatre production.
All Change

 

2003
Opera North

Carved puppets for Opera North‘s production of The Magic Flute.
The Magic Flute

 
 
 
 
Brandenburg

Make puppets for Brandenburg Theatre Orchestra project.
Brandenburg Theatre Orchestra

 
 
 

2002  

Hands-on-Art

Make an interactive puppet for a Hands-on-Art project.
Hands-on-Art project

 

 
 
 
 
Apprentice

Took on an apprentice for 6 months on a Europe funded project.
PuppetCraft apprentice

 

 

 

2000
Year of the Artist

Awarded an Arts Council grant as part of a national program to run residencies in rural villages.
Year of the Artist

 
 
 
1996
Haydn Opera

Technical consultant for a puppet opera at The Haydn Festival in Austria, with Trevor Pinnock’s English Concert orchestra & The Little Angel Theatre.

 

 

 


1995

Pinocchio

Consultant and maker for the film “The Adventures of Pinocchio” – carving a marionette used by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.
The Adventures of Pinocchio

 

 

 

 


1994

Rupert

Made and directed puppets for David Wood’s “Rupert and the Green Dragon” which toured nationally to large theatres.
Rupert and the Green Dragon

 

 

 

 


1993
British Council

Two month puppet project in Zimbabwe for The British Council working with local performers and musicians.
British Council puppet project

 
 
 
 
1992 to 2002
Dartington College of Art

Tutored a Puppetry module at Dartington College of Art for ten years.

1991
The Dancer Hotoke

Designed, made and directed life-size puppet for Covent Garden Royal Opera project. Nominated for the Lawrence Olivier Awards for outstanding achievement.

 
 
 
1990
The Bet

Designed, made and directed a contemporary puppet-music-drama for the South Bank, Almeida Theatre & Huddersfield International Contemporary Music Festival.
“Puppet theatre & contemporary music go together like silent movies & busking at the piano. The Bet premiered at the Purcell Room deserves to start a trend.”  Independent
The Bet Puppetry Commission

 

 

 

 

 

 

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