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Nutmeg Puppet Company

   
nutmeg
Pip's Wildlife Garden

www.nutmegpuppet.co.uk
info@nutmegpuppet.co.uk
t : 01502 - 478 999
Halesworth, Suffolk
England

Artistic Director/s    Meg Amsden

Ways of Working  
Practices
drama, puppet company, performance, musical, storytelling, celebrations, community arts, educational performances, film, Local Distinctiveness, Environmental Interpretation
Audiences: young persons, family, post-retirement

Places
theatres, community centres, village halls, arts centres, youth centres, schools, museums, workplaces, hospitals, village greens, town parks, festivals, heritage sites, public events, national parks, rural areas, agricultural areas, forestry areas, coastal areas, East Anglia, London, Europe, Romania

Recent Themes
sense of place, cloning, habitat protection, conservation, tourism, theme parks, pollution, how to be carbon neutral, climate change.

Vision  
Our work is closely related to the rural area where we are based. It has a strong sense of place, and is inspired by local environmental issues, history, folk tales and legends, and accounts of people's lives.

Though the issues are generally serious, our shows are entertaining and informative, though never didactic. We research our subjects through field trips, first hand accounts, books, and the media. We collaborate closely with local environmentalists and historians. Shows are devised generally by the company, though on occasions we work with writers. We also work with local artists in the production of our shows and like to experiment and develop our style theatrically and visually.

We believe in taking our work to our audiences and generally perform out of doors, in schools and residential homes, community centres and museums, rather than established theatres. We run workshops and residencies in which we encourage participants to learn through practical experience. We consider our role to be enablers and stimulators, enabling people of all ages and abilities to express and develop their own ideas and skills.

From 1995 to 1999, we used the methods we have developed in the UK to run an environmental puppetry project in the Danube Delta, Romania, Eco-Puppets in the Delta.

We have produced a handbook that explains our methods and describes our experience, The EcoPuppets Handbook available from Nutmeg.

 
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Productions and Projects

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Famous Five Birds
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2013
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Waveney & Blyth Arts teamed up the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, the RSPB, Birdswing and both the Norfolk and Suffolk Biodiversity Partnerships, and with Nutmeg Puppet Company for the Famous Five Birds project.

Meg Amsden, puppeteer; Matt Howard, poet; and ornithologists Steve and Kathy Piotrowski ran workshops in 10 schools in the Waveney and Blyth Valleys in North Suffolk and East Norfolk in March and April 2013. Meg worked with composer and pianist Nathan Williamson on a shadow puppet show to be performed at family events in August and September.

The Famous Five Birds are the bittern, barn owl, bearded tit, marsh harrier and nightingale.

The project is funded by Touching the Tide (HLF), Essex and Suffolk Water, and Broads Authority Sustainable Development Fund.

A video Meg's workshop at Halesworth’s Edgar Sewter School is here.

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Intangible Cities of Margharita Monticiano
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2011
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A sly confection of shadows and objected images
A series of elusive, decadent, shadowy reflections of La Serenissima, the seductive, rapacious city of Venice
The city that carries the seeds of its own downfall, personified by Margharita Monticiano, an ageing beauty who sees the world from her own voracious viewpoint

Premiered at Suspense Festival 2009, Intangible Cities of Margharita Monticiano first appeared as a collage shadow puppet show inspired by a story by Italo Calvino with images from Italian photo novels, romantic advertising and sweet wrappings, and a cast of 6 bizarre characters. The sound-track included old 78 recordings of Italian opera, slushy romantic songs, and street and café recordings.

The production was revived for the Norwich Puppet Theatre's 30th anniversary Gala in 2010, and since then the original show has been incorporated into a longer work about the city of Venice, ageing, and the decay of civilisation.

Directed by Joy Haynes
Performed by Meg Amsden and Steve Peck
Design, puppets, projected images and film by Meg Amsden
Technical assistance by Tim Hunkin
Soundtrack composed by Jane Wells. Sound technician Steve Peck

A video clip is here.

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nutmeg intangible cities
Intangible Cities of Margharita Monticiano

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Pip's Wildlife Garden
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2010
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    'Come with Pip to the wild, glorious, overgrown jungle at the bottom of her garden. But what’s Grandad up to, clearing the brambles, digging the earth, and planting vegetables?

    They are bound to clash. Grandad shuts the gate, Pip jumps on the seedlings, and something eats the peas. How will they ever find a way to share the garden and all get enough to eat?'

Nutmeg Puppet Company and Eastfeast have launched an innovative project for three to six year-olds to learn where food for humans and food for wildlife comes from. The project consists of a touring puppet show with accompanying workshops and a comprehensive education pack.

Nutmeg writes:

    'The project sprang from our belief that people have become dangerously detached from the natural world and our place in and dependence on it. We think that children need to play out of doors and experience the wild, but also to discover the delights of growing their own food.

    The show is about how these two human needs don't always fit together.

    The animals and plants look and behave in a realistic way; they only speak to Pip in a dreamlike moonlit scene. We are not sentimental about the fact that they need to eat each other (and do so) in order to live'.

nutmeg pip's wildlife garden
Pip's Wildlife Garden started touring in January 2010. Funding has enabled 50 schools, playgroups and nurseries from rural and urban deprived areas in Norfolk, Suffolk and North Essex to see the show. With support from Sustainable Development Funds, gardeners and artists from Eastfeast will run practical workshops after the show in 40 schools around the Broads, Suffolk Coast and Heaths, and Dedham Vale, doing bio-surveys, and making insect hotels and butterfly feeders from recycled materials.

In researching the show, Meg Amsden observed gardening activities at Yoxford and Holton Primary Schools, watched Mary Pendered of Eastfeast in action at Aldeburgh Primary, and joined in with a Forest Schools class at Antingham and South Repps Primary, sharing sticky burnt marshmallows around the camp fire and watching a lot of sliding down muddy slopes and swinging from trees. She also consulted the staff at Holt Hall Field Studies Centre, and Beccles Children's Centre.

The show includes puppets, storytelling and songs. It was written, through devising, by Meg Amsden with the performer Steve Peck and the director Joy Haynes. Meg also designed and made it with her team at Nutmeg, who include textile artists Jenny Nutbeem, Jacky Linney and Helen Rolfe; Jessie Gillilan; puppet and prop maker Molly Barret; and sculptor/cartoonist Tim Hunkin, who constructed the stage with Abby Lee. Nico Brown composed and recorded the original music for the show, and Nicky Rowbottom compiled the education pack.

Project funded by: The Ashden Trust, Arts Council England East, the Broads Authority SDF, Suffolk Coast and Heaths Unit SDF, Ernest Cook Trust, Dedham Vale & Stour Valley Project SDF, Adnams Charitable Trust, Ipswich Arts Grants and Norfolk County Council Arts Project Fund.

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nutmeg pip's wildlife garden
Pip's Wildlife Garden

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Being Carbon Neutral
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2009 - 2010
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Being Carbon Netural is a schools' workshop for 7 – 11 year olds created by Meg Amsden and Nicky Rowbottom to encourage innovative thinking about ways of living with reduced dependence on carbon-based technologies.

Using examples of carbon neutral and energy efficient buildings in Norfolk and Essex as an inspiration, the workshop aims to unlock the imagination through the theatrical medium of shadow puppetry, and suggest ways forward through practical science and technology experiments.

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being carbon neutral
Being Carbon Neutral

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Knowlittle
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2007
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Knowlittle is based on the life of the self-taught Great Yarmouth naturalist, showman and journalist, Arthur Patterson, who wrote a nature diary for the Eastern Daily Press for many years under the pen-name of John Knowlittle.

The play tells the story of Patterson, writer, cartoonist, zookeeper, warehouseman, showman, puppeteer, truancy officer, but above all, recorder of the natural history of his beloved Breydon Water. His life is seen through the eyes of his wife Alice and his daughter Nellie.

Patterson corresponds with learned scientists, takes tea and talks about birds with his friend the Duchess and swaps tales of poaching and wildfowling with the almost feral Breydoners.

With Patterson's own drawings, contemporary photographs, songs of the day, original music and film, two actors and a variety of puppet characters tell the story of a man whose heart's desire was to be recognised as a 'proper naturalist'.

Knowlittle will tour Norfolk, Suffolk and East Anglia, with the premiere in October 2007 coinciding with the 150th anniversary of Patterson's birth. The show will tour elderly people's homes, community centres and other rural venues. The production combines Nutmeg's strong sense of place with their interest in works for older people and audiences with little opportunity to see live theatre.

Beryl Tooley, Arthur Patterson's great grandaughter, contributed to Nutmeg's research for the production.

Writer & Designer: Meg Amsden
Director: Mark Pitman

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nutmeg knowlittle
Knowlittle

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Windy Old Weather
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2005, 2013
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The story, told by puppets and actors, delves into history and mythology and carries the audience on the back of the wind through to the giant turbines of the 21st century. For 5 – 11yr olds, or a family audience.

Nan sings as she hangs out the washing to dry on the windy bank of the river Yare, but her grandson Michael would rather spend his summer holiday playing Tornado Raiders on his computer than listen to her endless tales of ancient smuggling adventures.

As he waits for his new wind-turbine kit to arrive, Zephyr picks him up and carries him off into the past and the future, where the mighty force of the wind fills sails, turns mills, spins turbines, wrecks ships, and carries birds, seeds, and insects thousands of miles across the oceans. Michael is dropped into Jenny's world of wherries, giants, witches and smugglers, where a good wind takes you where you want to go, but an ill wind quickly sends everything spinning out of control.

Written by Meg Amsden, Nick Murray Brown, and Joy Haynes
Research and teaching materials: Nicky Rowbottom
Director: Joy Haynes
Design: Meg Amsden and Jayne Ivimey
Made by: Meg Amsden, Jules Carpenter, Tim Hunkin, Matt Reeve, and Holly Scholfield

Windy Old Weather was commissioned by the Broads Authority.

Windy Old Weather was performed at the Latitude Festival in 2013.

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nutmeg - windy old weather
Windy Old Weather

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The Rubbish Monster
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2004
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What if the crisp packet you’d just thrown away came to life and begged you to take it home?

This is just what happens to Katie Dumpster as she paddles her boat down the backwaters of the river, on what is clearly going to be a very strange summer’s day.

As more litter floats downstream from the city and lands in mounting piles on the river-bank, a scavenging gull gets into a tangle, and the Watervoles watch helplessly as a mysterious Robot arm carries off their Baby, trapped in a discarded wine-bottle.

Katie tries to help, but only adds to their problems, until Lord Pike, the Waterwolf, takes her under his fin. Together they hatch a plan to rescue Baby from the Rubbish Monster, but Lord Pike himself is being stalked by a very determined fisherman. . .

The Rubbish Monster is Nutmeg Puppet Company's new project for the Broads Authority about rubbish and waste minimisation

The aim of the project will be to increase the understanding of sustainability - what it is and how we can all make small changes to our lives to make them more sustainable. In particular we shall promote re-using, reducing and recycling. This will be put into the context of the Broads and will show how small changes made locally can produce big benefits for the wider environment.

Told with puppets, live characters, music, songs, a great deal of humour and audience participation, it will be an animals' eye-view of human beings and their wasteful ways.

The Rubbish Monster toured village greens and staithes around the Broads as part of the 'Fun in the Broads' programme.

We ran workshops in six middle schools in the Autumn Term of 2004 for the Broads Authority 'Out There' social exclusion project in Lowestoft, Gorleston and Belton. We worked with year-five pupils, making puppets out of recycled materials, to press home the message of re-use, reduce, recycle, and to help them understand the consequences of dropping litter.

The Rubbish Monster was performed in the six schools, and thanks to grants from Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils, we performed the show free to a further eight schools in the Broads area.

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the rubbish monster
The Rubbish Monster

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Apple Pip
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2003
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Apple Pip is an environmental show designed for 3-6 year-olds based around an apple tree.

The story tells the life of an old tree throughout the year and the four seasons.

From spring blossom and summer fruiting to autumn harvest and leaf-fall, Pip sings as she swings from the branches of an old apple tree. Once, it produced the tastiest apples in the orchard, but now it is neglected and all kinds of animals try to steal the last remaining fruit.

Mrs. Crabbe, the grumpy owner, plans to chop it down, but Pip loves the tree and wants to save it. With the help of the audience she must find a way to make Mrs. Crabbe change her mind.

Apple Pip ia a 30-minute show with puppets, storytelling, songs, original music and a taste of apples. It is followed by a 30-minute drama workshop.

There is also an illustrated children's book based on the show.

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apple pip - pip and bluetit
Apple Pip

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Heatwave
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2003
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Heatwave is a show about climate change and wetlands, performed by puppets and masked actors, and inspired by Commedia.

The sun feels hotter than usual this summer in the marshlands and waterways. Some unusual birds have appeared from the south, and tour-guide Karen is worried by the weather forecast. Meanwhile, Billy's too busy messing about in the mud to notice anything's wrong, until he makes an idle wish and finds himself flying on a spoonbill's back to a lake in Africa where the crocodiles are hungry.

But this was only the start of his adventures, which end with a mighty flood, a helicopter rescue, and water, water, everywhere...

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nutmeg heat wave
Heat Wave

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Blooming Weed
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2002
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The Blooming Weed Child dives down into the Norfolk Broad to see what the problem is. Beneath the water she finds herself in a different world, where the inhabitants tell her about the stonewort.

Will she ever get back to the boat? Will she meet the mysterious Black Panther? And will everyone ever stop arguing about the blooming weed?

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Blooming Weed
Blooming Weed

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Tutu and the Sky Goddess
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2001 and in repertory
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Tutu and the Sky Goddess is a show about the ancient Egyptians for 5 - 11 year olds or a family audience

With Nut the Sky Goddess as their guide, Tutu and her cat, Tam-iu, set off on their journey from the lush and fertile valley of the Nile, via the land of dreams, to the Underworld. There the jackal-headed god Anubis weighs Tutu's heart and deeds against the Feather of Truth.

Will she escape Amut the Devourer of Souls? And will her heart be light enough to enter the Afterlife?

The story explores the myths of ancient Egypt with shadow and rod puppets accompanied by original music.

Written by Suffolk novelist Julia Blackburn
Performed as 'Theatre in Residence' at the British Museum.

The photograph above of Gods and Goddess puppets from Tutu and the Sky Goddess is by Steve Lorenc.

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nutmeg tutu
Tutu and the Sky Goddess

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Noah's Park
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1999
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Noah's Park is about disappearing species in the wetland environment, speculating on the use of cloning and genetic engineering and the ethical arguments they provoke, and on alternative practical solutions.

It is for a family audience or 5 - 11 year-olds in school.

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noah's park chimeras
Noah's Park

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Butterfly Rover
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1998
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Butterfly Rover is based on the Diaries (1878 - 1939) of a Norfolk woman, Margaret Fountaine, which tell the story of a restless, romantic and intrepid life. As a collector of butterflies, she toured the world in an obsessive search for new species for 20 years, accompanied by her mysterious young Syrian lover.

Especially written for a post-retirement audience, Butterfly Rover has live action, puppetry and projected images.

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butterfly rover
Butterfly Rover

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Following the Stars
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1997
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Following the Stars is a story of migration across the globe, of birds, fish and humans, and journeys through time beginning in the wide waters and reed-beds of Breydon Water.

Once upon a time, when the Vikings first came to Breydon, the birds filled the sky with their song and roasted bittern was a popular dish.

...Meanwhile back in the present, life on the marshes is at a low ebb. A theme park threatens the swallows' reed-bed roost. Great Aunt Ethel Matilda, a giant eel of Breydon Water, can’t remember how to get back to the Sargasso Sea and until she can, she and her nephews must remain trapped in childhood.

Two lonely children, Amber [obsessed with Vikings] and Kamal, the birdwatcher, try to help, and find themselves embarked on an adventure that takes them back into the past, by means of Mr. Knowlittle's Viking amulet.

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nutmeg following the stars
Following the Stars

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Menace of the Mud Monster
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1996
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The project to clear the mud from the Broads has begun, but no sooner has Ted's dredger pumped a ton out, than more starts to creep in from an unknown source. Meanwhile, in a nearby pond the animals and plants struggle to survive as the water grows cloudy and the algae multiplies.

Menace of the Mud Monster is a touring show with puppets, live action and an attractively scary monster.

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Menace of the Mud Monster

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Eco-Puppets Project
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1995 - 1999
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Meg Amsden, Nutmeg and the Broads Authority joined forces with the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Authority (Romania) in an unusual environmental education project to protect and conserve the unique and fragile wetland environment of the Danube Delta.

The project shows how puppetry can bring to life important environmental issues.

Editors' note: Please go to Features for Meg's article on Nutmeg, on inspired funding and the Eco-Puppets Project.

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eco puppets
Eco Puppets

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Return of the Copper Flyer
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1994
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A great gale blows from Holland and with it comes a Large Copper Butterfly anxiously searching for a place to lay her eggs and so re-establish her family in the Broads. But her favourite food-plants in the fen are dying and her fabled beauty has caught the eye of an unscrupulous 'nature lover.'

Only the bravery and daring of one small girl can save her, but the child is herself a stranger who knows nothing of the fens and the wild and mysterious inhabitants.

Return of the Copper Flyer is a touring show with puppets, live action and audience participation.

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copper flyer
Return of the Copper Flyer

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Psyche! Open the Box!
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1986, 1989, 1990, 2013
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Psyche! Open the Box! is a retelling of the 1st Century story by the Roman writer Apuleius. Psyche, the youngest and prettiest of the king's three daughters attracts the attention of the naughty god Cupid, and the raging jealousy of his mother Venus. Abandoned by her lover, alone and pregnant, Psyche must carry out three dangerous trials and go down to the Underworld to prove her love.

The story is as relevant today as it ever was, as its heroine, pregnant and abandoned by her lover, puts herself into the hands of her enemy and willingly undergoes the most terrible trials in order to regain her love. This she can only do with the aid of the natural world. She becomes part of the natural world, and is true to her own nature.

The ants, the daisies, and the eagle help her sort out the seeds, avoid the savage sheep, and outwit the serpents of the waterfall. The god Pan (god of nature / the wild) gives her good advice as does the goddess Ceres (goddess of the harvest), mother of Proserpina (goddess of spring), whose realm Psyche has to enter to find the box of beauty.

In the play, the goddess Venus is obsessed with appearances and being beautiful and represents the contemporary world with its compulsive consumerism and destructiveness.

Psyche's fateful Pandora-like curiosity nearly loses her everything in the end, but finally the lovers are reunited and the gods and goddesses forced to recognise her as their equal.

The first ending of the story in 1986 has Psyche opening the box of beauty, giving birth to a monster and nuclear winter ensuing, an ending influenced and rendered doubly poignant by the nuclear accident that week at the Chernobyl nuclear power station, warning us that our fateful curiosity and abuse of the natural world might lead to irreparable loss.

Psyche! open the Box! was originally performed outdoors as a play with puppets in a disused graveyard by Meg Amsden with Peter Allday and Gwen Ray in May 1986. Live music by Jane Wells was added for later performances. It was translated into Italian for Sorgente in Milano, 1989, with performers Mike Eldridge and Diana Grandi; and performed at Vision Mix, 1990 at Battersea Arts Centre, with performers Colin Spector and Ellie Rayner.

Nutmeg Puppet Company have made Psyche! Open the Box! into a 27-minute film, located in the Suffolk countryside, with filming and animation by Meg Amsden and Debra Hyatt and music by Jane Wells.

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nutmeg psyche
Psyche! Open the Box!

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More About  
Origin 1979

crystal ball
Nutmeg Puppet Company

  Nutmeg Puppet Company
www.nutmegpuppet.co.uk
info@nutmegpuppet.co.uk
t: 01502 - 478 999

East End
Bulcamp House
Bulcamp
Halesworth, Suffolk
IP19 9LG
England

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