News: Theatre-Rites launches new book with Juliet Stevenson

The award-winning children’s theatre company, Theatre-Rites, will mark their 25th anniversary this year with their first book, Theatre-Rites: Animating Puppets, Objects and Sites. This invaluable resource is a comprehensive history of the company’s work. It celebrates the importance of collaboration and offers the first in-depth exploration of Artistic Director Sue Buckmaster’s visionary practice, in which anything can be animated.

As part of the celebrations, they will be hosting a launch event in person and via a live stream on 28th July featuring a conversation between Sue Buckmaster and BAFTA-nominated actress Juliet Stevenson (Truly, Madly, Deeply; The Doctor, Almeida; Blindness, Donmar Warehouse), a long-term admirer of Theatre-Rites’ work. The event will also include rare footage of Houseworks, the production which put Theatre-Rites on the map, and a short film capturing highlights from the last 25 years.

Theatre-Rites: Animating Puppets, Objects and Sites is a compelling advocacy for high-quality and experimental arts provision for young audiences. It focusses on how to incorporate puppetry and symbolic objects as metaphors in theatrical work. Distilling learnings from decades of the company’s professional activities, the book aims to motivate and empower the next generation of object-led theatre-makers.

Drawing on original research, this is the first comprehensive theorisation of Theatre-Rites’ creative process. It features detailed observations of their theory-informed practice, rooted in psychoanalysis and child development. Also featured are insights from their professional training workshops and in-depth interviews between the authors, Dr Liam Jarvis, Theatre-Rites board member and co-director of the Centre for Theatre Research at University of Essex, and Sue Buckmaster. Unearthing stunning images from their archives, it includes personal reflections on their past productions, celebrating the company and the incredible artists they have worked with.

Sue Buckmaster said: “It has been a privilege working with Liam over the last 4 years; we have talked politically, personally and playfully, and I hope that this rich dialogue speaks through the book. It has been an honour to reflect on 25 years of Theatre-Rites and the part we have played in transforming people’s understanding of puppetry and challenging, thought-provoking theatre for children. There are still many challenges ahead for all of us in the arts community, but I hope this book provides a moment to celebrate all those who have helped us reach this milestone birthday. I am looking forward to our next chapter.”

Liam Jarvis commented: “This book is the culmination of a long-standing personal and professional creative partnership between Sue Buckmaster and myself that is inextricably linked to theatre studies at the University of Essex, from where Sue graduated in the late 90s. Sue’s rich theatrical lineage, her ground-breaking work in puppetry and her unwavering commitment to ensuring children are offered highly innovative and creatively daring theatrical experiences – often setting the benchmark as a child’s first ever experience of theatre – is truly pioneering. We are so proud that she holds an Essex degree and an Honorary Doctorate and that she continues to work with and inspire our students as the future generation of theatre-makers in the Centre for Theatre Research. That the book is being co-launched with Juliet Stevenson, another Essex Honorary Graduate, is the icing on the 25th birthday cake.”

Since the company’s founding by Penny Bernand, Theatre-Rites have been committed to ensuring that children are offered theatrical experiences that are challenging and inspirational. Continuing this commitment for their 25th anniversary, Theatre-Rites will premiere The Global Playground at Manchester International Festival and online this summer. This innovative production mixes dance, music, theatre and puppetry and reflects on our society where our digital and real selves coexist in discord or cohesion. They will also premiere a new production, Zoe’s Peculiar Journey Through Time, in Austria; a time travelling journey to a magical Plastic Island inhabited by animals, scavengers and spirits exploring how our lives can affect the future.

The book will be available to purchase from £34.99 via Routledge, Amazon and most general bookshops, both online and instore, across the UK and the US.

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