Shadow Puppets back to charm and enthral the whole family
There is a man who can tell a story with just a few props and his hands. Drew Colby, founder and leader of Finger and Thumb Theatre is that man. Hiding behind a screen he turns his agile hands into animals, people and children and they become so alive that you forget about the trickery and just get carried away with the story.
This year Drew Colby and his assistant Peter MacDonald are coming back to Dulwich Picture Gallery with a new show and it is a real cracker. It’s called The Rabbit’s Lollipop and it is just one of the magic stories Drew will present on 8 December. There will be more, much more. Rudolf the reindeer will make an appearance and one story relates to the Nativity, but with a spider in the cave. Well, that’s a new twist on an old theme.
And there will be music, composed by Drew, some of it recorded but there will also be live music as Drew attacks harmonica and Peter the ukulele. The two are also trying other ideas, experimenting with new techniques, which is bound to thrill all ages.
Drew made his first professional appearance as a puppeteer at the age of twelve and that was some 26 years ago. “I have always been fascinated by storytelling and miniatures, and maybe I just like being in charge,” he adds with a laugh. His present company, Finger and Thumb Theatre, grew out of his first company called Object Darts, where he used everyday objects to tell a story. “We used flowerpots, glasses and coat hangers and somehow it was a natural development to look closer at using light, or rather the absence of light, to create images.”
The company has achieved quite a name in the world of puppets and Drew travels all over the world to show his plays. He is soon off to Turkey and then to France. “In Spain and France they take this art form more seriously and in the former Soviet Union there is even proper funding available for puppet theatres.”
Shadow puppetry is not a common art form and Drew is now looking for an apprentice. “It’s hard and it takes months to learn but it is very rewarding.” For the rest of us who are all thumbs it looks almost impossible to create these figures, which appear in Drew’s shows. His bear in last year’s Christmas show at the Gallery was so sweet and touching that the children wanted to cuddle him.
After the show Drew and Peter teach the children to create some of the show’s animals with their hands and it is a time much loved by the young, although parents have been seen trying out some of the shapes themselves.
Drew and Peter enjoy their shows at the Gallery. “I just love Soane’s work and to see the beautiful gallery building, the fine gardens with its café and with Dulwich Park opposite, I cannot think of a better place for a family day out.” Modest as he is, he does not mention that his show would be the star of any outing.
Sat 8 Dec at Linbury Room, Dulwich Picture Gallery
10.15 – 11.45am with an interval for fruit
£5 per person, parents welcome
Tickets available online: www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk, by phone: 020 8299 8750 Mon-Fri 10am –4pm, or visit the Friends Desk in the Gallery