Puppetry: Design and Performance, BA | The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

Puppetry: Design and Performance, BA


3 years full-time, October start*


Institution code: C35; Course code: W441


Bachelor of Arts (Hons) Theatre Practice

About the course

Studying on the Puppetry: Design and Performance pathway of the BA (Hons) Theatre Practice course, you will:

  • Train in a world-leading institution for puppeteers with industry professionals
  • Design, make and perform with puppets through interdisciplinary and collaborative devised work
  • Undertake directed and individual performance projects showcased in leading puppet theatres

*Puppetry Design and Performance is not running in 2018/19

Join a pioneering course

Central pioneered the first UK degree in puppet theatre and the course works closely with national and international professional practitioners, who are all experts in their fields; you will benefit from this with an expansive range of visiting lecturers and placements in theatres and with companies worldwide.

Specialists in specific cultural traditions often visit and offer masterclasses in their area of specialism.

Develop as a skilled practitioner

You will develop performance projects making and performing puppets and objects, within and outside Central.

Our aim is for you to develop as a skilled practitioner able to initiate and develop your own projects, as well as collaborating closely with others within a discipline that requires both technique and creativity.

You are encouraged to engage with contemporary practice from the outset, to develop strong working relationships with professional practitioners and to forge your own identity as a specialist in the field.

Practical research and development is underpinned by contextual studies in puppetry and visual theatre performance, including historical and theoretical discussions, and intercultural study of traditional forms and practices. You will work closely with other Theatre Practice students, so that you understand, respect and work effectively with the full range of professional practitioners, in order to appreciate the theatre process and interdisciplinary practice.

Throughout the three years, you will have the opportunity to experience puppetry in a variety of contexts, participate in frequent visits to shows, talks and workshops by visiting professionals, and benefit from ongoing collaboration with a number of arts bodies within London and beyond.

Interested in studying this course?

Unfortunately we are not recruiting for October 2019. If you have any questions about this course, please email us.

Course Detail

YEAR 1: Make, perform

  • Introduction to a range of collaborative and course-specific projects in order to explore puppet making and animation processes, principles of movement, devising, design skills, voice work, acting, animation and manipulation, and application of manipulation skills to specific projects.
  • You will create a performance in response to a text and develop installation, site-specific and immersive theatre in collaboration with other strands.
  • You will also research traditional puppetry forms and contemporary puppetry companies of note.

YEAR 2: Write, create

  • Developing writing, producing and performing skills and working with a range of different disciplines in order to develop a sensitivity to cross-art approaches.
  • The course collaborates closely with Performance Arts and Design for the Stage students on experimental and speculative performance projects.
  • In the third term, you will develop a major puppetry production, which will tour nationally and possibly internationally.
  • Where negotiated, you will collaborate with Applied Theatre students, using puppetry in a community setting e.g. working with the charity MIND, creating performance for elderly dementia sufferers, or assisting with a puppetry production created by prisoners.
  • You will continue contextual and academic research into different styles of puppetry, for example symbolism and Dada, and explore practitioners such as Kantor, Meyerhold and Craig.

YEAR 3: Direct, critique

  • You will focus on your own voice as creative auteur and develop skills in directing and analysing puppet theatre.
  • You will negotiate personal development plans and carry out individual work to deepen learning in specific areas of interest.
  • The personal development plan may be a professional placement with puppet theatre companies, working as an assistant director, in-school training in specific complementary areas, preparing solo work for performance, or an apprenticeship with makers.


Entry Requirements and Admissions

Minimum Entry Requirements

Our standard academic entry requirements range between 120 and 64 UCAS tariff points. You can see how many tariff points your qualifications would gain on the UCAS Tariff Calculator. International qualifications and others not covered within the UCAS tariff can also be accepted. Please email us if you need further clarification.

Please note that we make lower offers (including unconditional) to exceptional candidates and those who have alternative or prior experience to offer. All candidates invited to interview are asked to bring a portfolio. Interview and portfolio are key factors in determining which applicants are accepted on to the course.

Admission with Academic Credit

For information on alternative entry requirements please see www.ucas.com.

Application Details

See How to Apply section for Undergraduate courses.

We particularly encourage applications from groups currently under-represented in higher education, such as students with disabilities and members of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups. Find out more information on Central’s commitment to equality and diversity.


Find out more about the interview process for this course.

International Interviews

Each year Central hosts a number of interviews outside of the UK, with a team of tutors from Central travelling to meet applicants. The international interviews are designed to replicate the London-based interview experience in every aspect (other than a tour of our site!). See our Event Finder for listings of upcoming interview locations and dates.

International Students

Visit the International Students section to view details of English language requirements for Central's courses.

Industry Links & Placements

Central collaborates with a large number of professional companies and practitioners who visit as lecturers or host students on professional placements. The course works particularly closely with the Little Angel Theatre (which supports the small scale touring project and community placement in the second year) and students participate in masterclasses at Suspense, the international festival of adult puppet theatre.

There are also talks and workshops by internationally recognised practitioners including:

  • Sandglass Theatre
  • Handspring Puppet Theatre
  • PuppetCraft
  • Thai puppeteers from Arts on Location
  • Annie Rollins.

Students have recently undertaken placements with a range of companies such as:

  • the National Theatre
  • Polka Theatre
  • Little Angel Theatre
  • Theatre-Rites
  • Dockteatern Tittut in Stockholm
  • Edinburgh Puppet Company
  • Blind Summit
  • CBeebies
  • ITV television.

The course has excellent links with other related courses within the UK and with international puppetry courses.

You may be invited to take one production during your studies to a major international puppet festival. Recent productions and performances have been part of festivals, for example:

  • Tallinn Treff Festival
  • Bialystok International Puppet Festival
  • Stuttgart Puppet Festival
  • Istanbul International Puppet Festival
  • Indonesia International Puppet Festival
  • Ghent Street Theatre Festival
  • Toy Theatre Festival in New York.

Community collaborations undertaken include work with local and national healthcare providers, such as hospitals, residential centres, schools and community centres.

Recent Visiting Professionals

Stephen Mottram, Sue Dacre, Steve Tiplady, Stan Middleton, Sue Buckmaster, Dr John Bell, Rene Baker, Penny Francis MBE, Annie Rollins, Colette Garrigan, Isobel Smith, Rachel Warr, Peter O’Rourke, John Roberts, Roman Stefanski.

Graduate Employment

Graduate employment and career pathways include:

Puppeteer, War Horse, Blind Summit/ENO collaboration; Horse and Bamboo Theatre; Mongrels, BBC. Creative Director, CBeebies.

Performer, The Paper Cinema, Little Angel Theatre, Puppet Theatre Barge. Puppet Maker and Performer, PuppetCraft.

Founder, Arts Centre.

Puppet Maker, His Dark Materials, National Theatre.

Puppetry Education Assistant, Little Angel Theatre.

Workshop Facilitator, Theatre Royal Plymouth.

Community Workshop Leader, The Moveable Feast.

Puppetry Workshop Leader, Korea, Taiwan, Italy.

Puppeteer for traumatised children in Iraq.

Puppetry Director, European Youth Project. Artist Residency, Tallinn Treff Festival.

Notable Graduates

Toby Olié (2006) Provides Puppet Design for Wonder.land, and, The Light Princess, and he was the Associate Puppetry Director for War Horse, all at the National Theatre. Other Puppet Design credits include, The Magic Flute (Royal Opera House), Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Royal Ballet) and The Little Shop of Horrors (Manchester Royal Exchange).  

Matt Hutchinson (2011) was Puppeteer and Fabrication Assistant for the London 2012 Olympic Ceremonies. Previous puppetry credits include, War Horse (National Theatre), The Tempest (Royal Shakespeare Company and Little Angel Theatre), The Wild Night of the Witches (Little Angel Theatre) and Bagpuss (Soho Theatre).

Mark Down (1996) founded Blind Summit Theatre and has been the Director of Puppetry for numerous productions, amongst which are, The Magic Flute (Royal Opera House), His Dark Materials (National Theatre) and Madam Butterfly (Metropolitan Opera, New York).

Fagner Gastaldon and Cass Gastaldon founded PuppetSoup, and productions so far include, Land of The Dragon, The Memory Keeper and Fix Freddie!

Staff on the Course

View profiles of the academic staff who teach on this course. Click on each staff member to find out more about them.

Cariad Astles, BA, MA

Lecturer, Course Leader Puppetry: Design and Performance

2018 Graduates

Meet one of our Puppetry students who graduated in 2018.

Class of 2019

Find out more about one of our Puppetry students graduating in 2019.

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