Laura Cubitt, Puppetry Director & Movement Director.
In our latest blog post, Laura Cubitt, a former student at SGGS, shares insight into her unique career as a Puppetry Director and Movement Director, working in theatre and film both in the UK and internationally.
Over to Laura …
Puppetry has exploded in the last 10 years or so in theatre, and I quite accidentally have found myself a home, community and career in what I thought to be, quite a niche area.
My time at SGGS undoubtedly laid some valuable foundations for where I am today. I graduated in 1997 and went on to study Drama at Hull University, before completing a Diploma at Webber Douglas Academy in Acting. I was always interested in theatre, but without doubt the early exposure to watching plays, learning from visiting practitioners and links with the RSC whilst at SGGS, contributed to my growing belief that perhaps it could be a viable career as well as a passion.
My final practical exam at school was my first taste of devising as I would go on to know it. At Hull, they encouraged new writing, theatre-making and alternative storytelling to text-based work. Alongside studying writers and theatre practitioners. Drama school was a way more traditional training in classical acting, but with a sideline of yoga and a physical training that piqued my interest.
Application over audition
After completing my training, I immediately found myself going down the theatre-making route rather than waiting for the hallowed audition to come along and then praying I was right for a part. The first companies I worked with as a performer focused on visual storytelling, or physical theatre as it was then known with a strong emphasis on collaboration and creation. It was thrilling to see how different artistic disciplines come together to make a piece of theatre.
I worked for years as a performer, touring both the UK and abroad until a show came along that changed my course. WarHorse was auditioning for the transfer into the West End from the National Theatre and they were looking for physical performers/ dancer/ puppeteers. I was cast as Joey the main horse, as a puppeteer and received my all-important training under Handspring’s Basil and Adrian.
Puppetry clicked straight away for me as an enticing way of making theatre. There’s an immense practicality to it, you have to pull that lever, push that rod to infinitesimally finite timing whilst also engaging in a free flow improvisation with your fellow puppeteers, added to a large dose of ‘suspending one’s disbelief’ from the audience and you have a true collaboration across the board. Which is also very fun to do. I spent the next 10 years working largely in puppetry- based pieces alongside more classical acting roles thrown in, not least at the RSC In Oppenheimer and The Shoemaker’s Holiday. Around this time, I also moved into Movement Direction and Puppetry direction, taking on the movement for the RSC’s Oppenheimer when it transferred into the West End. I was also one of the Associate Movement Directors on the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony, devising and delivering the material for the Industrial Revolution segment, with our team.
WarHorse was something of a sea change, I stayed with the production in some form or another for about two and a half years and had the pleasure of movement directing it in Berlin for the German version. I met a lot of wonderful theatre makers and we have gone on to make many shows together drawing on our shared experience and training. Many of my co-collaborators are now working on making some of the most exciting new pieces of theatre set to release next year.
After being the Puppet Director on The RSC’s Boy in the Dress this time last year and my Directorial debut set to happen at Regent’s Park Theatre, 2020 was all set to be very exciting indeed. That was Until COVID hit. The pandemic has obliterated our industry and the simplicity of a room full of people coming together in a shared experience, now still seems somewhat far away.
It is really encouraging and positive to see theatres and makers diversifying and creating work online or streamed, but it is somehow not the same beast as a packed theatre. I am confident in the comeback, but some fundamental support needs to happen to ensure this remains the same diverse and representational landscape it was before the pandemic.
I have been lucky enough to work at some of the country’s leading venues with some of the most exciting theatre makers working today and look forward to being able to share a room with a bunch of artists in the simple endeavour of imagination and storytelling again, sometime in the not too distant future.