It can't come into the light, and the light can't come into it...
As part of our One Year On Rumpelstiltskin series, today we catch up with Designer Sam Wilde to hear about his life in Lockdown, career challenges and cardboard!
How has the year been for you? Did you get anything positive from Lockdown?
Sam Been a bit of a funny old one hasn't it, I was off in Singapore in Feb doing my first international show, which was a little strange, had lots of phone calls from family worrying about me and "covid", I kept assuring them that they were being ridiculous! it was only when I got back to the UK that I think I really comprehended what was going on and what this year could really turn into! but I was still on a bit of a work high! Then when we went into lockdown, I actually emailed my family saying that I was going to be leaving the theatre, that there wasn't going to be any work anytime soon and I really didnt have the energy to start my career again, because I was sure thats what was going to be needed. Then I had a phone call from an old director friend who suggested we do a youtube puppet show, he suggested we do Jon Klassens I Want My Hat Back. Working with Ian Nicholson (The Director) on an R+D of Hat Back was my first ever design gig... 10 years ago, so I thought, Oh, this would be nice, I'll get to go out on the show I started on, and it will be nice for the kids and their nursery! Obviously then things exploded a bit, it ended up getting 300,000 views, 50+ countries, The Stage and Guardian top watch of Lockdown, I was interviewed on the BBC, we were in the New York Times, it got very crazy very fast! Yeah, so then we did the next two in the series, we've just released a cardboard puppet opera, we've got more of them on the books, including a Christmas one and more in Jan, seems like we're having meetings about doing more every other day! I get fan mail!!! people making their own and wanting to share them with me! I don't think I'd have got through Lockdown without it, it's the first time that I ever felt like what we do is important, it was very humbling, I certainly wouldn't still be working creatively if it wasn't for that, I'd have probably retrained in cyber!
Ian Nicholson performing I Want My Hat Back - The Stage
Hannah Thinking back to Rumpelstiltskin, what inspired the design for the show?
Sam Well the first thing that springs to mind is the space! That's whats so good about your work, you have to work with as well as in the space or... what you doing!? The space itself is the first and most important thing! After that, I think the Wicker Man (Original, not Nick Cage), Harvest festivals, Corn Dolls, The Crucible, Oh The Village!.. those kind of things. That and all the restrictions we have to deal with, people think they get in the way, but they're the most inspiring thing in any show, as my mum said, Limitations encourage creativity!
Hannah Can you tell us a bit about the evolution of Rumpelstiltskin and the puppets?
Sam Well we decided very early on what Rumpelstilskin WASN'T, that he wasn't a little goblin man who... wittles. The show was also happening over Halloween so we wanted it to be creepy. I was also really struck by the language of the text and how... old he seemed, he was the oldest of the old gods. A wisp of smoke, a stretch of river.. I think I quite quickly (and secretly, I don't this we talked about it at all) started thinking of him as a river.
And practically again, I had this image of him changing during the show but also being able to behave impossibly, instantly disappearing, reappearing elsewhere, falling to nothing. After those things we're discovered I'm not sure what else he could have been!
Hannah Any favourite memories of the show? It was a lot of fun, it was a really hands on and helpful team, it has to be because of the restrictions of the get in and the space, I think the get-ins were the bit I always really looked forward to, just a lot of really nice banter and friendships. I had a great time with Katie and Dan, but Norma was the bomb, we worked together again on Polly: A Heartbreak Opera after this, I hope we get to work together again in the future!
You have a knack for building really close teams, I remember really appreciating and admiring that. Hannah What are you up to now?
Yeah, as I say CARDBOARD!! A lot of it I can't talk about yet, we have to wait for them to be announced! But a lot of fun stuff, we have Shh! We Have A Plan - An Opera (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2k_yEBBEvyw) and I'm doing a zoom show with One Tenth Human (https://www.onetenthhuman.com/our-work/family-adventures/curious-investigators/) which are both great fun, but I'm also hoping to do my first bash at some direction next year as well, probably doing some assisting puppetry stuff to start, see how I take it, but been having some great chats!
Rehearsal photography by Lisa Hounsome
Production photography by Jack Offord