Cariad Astles, BA, MA | The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

Cariad Astles, BA, MA

Job title

Lecturer, Course Leader Puppetry: Design and Performance


I am the course leader for Puppetry: Design and Performance within the Theatre Practice Programme. I trained in Drama at Exeter University, and then as a puppeteer as an apprentice to Travesura Theatre, run by Chilean exiles in London; I took several short courses in puppetry at the Institut de la Marionnette in France and in the UK. I then worked as a performer/puppeteer for several years at the Little Angel Theatre, with Sue Buckmaster of Theatre Rites and with Puppetcraft, among other companies. I have directed puppetry for a number of companies and shows including Pericles and Eva Luna for Wooden Tongues Theatre Company, The Pied Piper and Tristan and Isolde for Puppetcraft, Macbeth for the Northcott Theatre and The Walk for Med Theatre. I have run numerous puppetry training workshops in the UK, Australia, Brazil, Spain and China, focusing on training for the puppeteer-performer and on intercultural training practices. I also work with the Catalan-based collective Irènia (, a group of artists and educators working on themes of peace, development and global education. With this group I have run training workshops in puppetry for peace education and development in Tunisia and Catalonia.

I worked at the University of Plymouth for many years prior to working at Central and also work at the University of Exeter as a Lecturer in the Drama Department. Apart from puppetry and object theatre, I teach applied drama, with a particular focus on health, Latin American performance and culture in performance.

I am a UK councillor for the international puppetry association, UNIMA, and a member of the Research Commission and the Commission for Cooperation. I have previously received awards from the Anna Lindh Foundation for the work with Irenia, which received a United Nations Intercultural Innovation Award for its work. I have also received funding from the AHRC for work on applied puppetry and funding from the Gulbenkian Foundation for the development of puppetry in live performance.

I was keynote speaker at the Yangzhou national puppetry conference in China, 2015
I am a member of PSI, Puppeteers UK, the IFTR and the South West Arts and Health Association. 


Puppetry: Design and Performance, BA

Teaching Areas

  • Puppet theatre; training; performance; directing; applied puppetry and puppetry and object theatre theory and history
  • Latin American Theatre
  • Applied Theatre

Research Areas

  • Puppetry training
  • Puppetry as cultural identity
  • Political puppetry
  • Applied puppetry
  • Latin American women's performance
  • Latin American religious performance and religion in performance
  • Latin American popular performance
  • Applied theatre in health

PhD Supervision

The above areas, with particular interest in PhDs in puppetry/theatre and national identity; transcultural performance; popular performance

Key Publications

2016. ‘Swazzles of Subversion: Puppets under Dictatorship’ in Performing (for) Survival: Theatre, Crisis, Extremity, edited by Duggan, Patrick and Lisa Peschel, (Basingstoke: Palgrave), pp. 103-120.

2016. ‘Wood and Waterfall: Directing Puppet Theatre’ in International Puppetry Research: Tracing Past and Present (Bratislava: UNIMA Research Commission), forthcoming.

2015. ‘On the Margins: Dementia and the present moment’ in Teatro de Excepción: experiencias escénicas no institucionales en la Europade los siglos XX y XXI, special issue of Quaderns de Filologia: Estudis Literaris, 19, pp. 85-108.

2015. ‘The archive and the repertoire: Kantor’s living puppet theatre’, in Polish Theatre Perspectives: Tadeusz Kantor: Twenty Years Later, 1.2, edited by Natalia Zarzecka and Michal Kobialka, Autumn 2011, ISSN: 2081-4844

2012. ‘Absent Bodies and Objects’ in , in Barcelona: Visual Culture, Space and Power, edited by Helena Buffery and Carlota Causfield, (Cardiff: University of Wales Press), pp. 193-204.

2012. ‘Puppetry for Development’ in The Power of the Puppet, edited by Livja Kroflin, Zagreb: UNIMA Commission for Education, Development and Therapy, pp. 63-78.

2010. ‘Puppetry Training in Contemporary Live Theatre’, in Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, 1.1, pp. 22-35.


My practice involves workshops, consultancy, performance and directorial work. Recent work includes:

2016. Plymouth Theatre Royal: leading skills in puppetry performance for live theatre.

2015.  Puppetry consultant, Med Theatre’s production of The Walk.

2014. Puppetry director, Puppetsoup’s production of Fix Freddie (in collaboration with the NHS Connecting Care for Children).

2006-the present. With Irenia: performer, Adama’s Journey.

Register of Interest

British Unima - Committee and UK Councillor for UNUMA International

UNIMA - Member of Commission for Cooperation, Research Commission and Commission for Cultural Cooperation