" Making puppetry. For everyone."
Creating 'Cat Town'
Creating 'Cat Town' with Gwent Police and Monmouthshire Council
In 2019 PuppetSoup were approached by Ruth Moyse from the Diversity and Inclusion Team of Gwent Police. She wanted to develop a show to tackle Hate Crime and discuss the ‘Pyramid of Hate’ in a way that school aged children could understand using puppets. Joined by Heather and Shaj from Monmouthshire County Council, PuppetSoup agreed strongly that we would not want an overt show whereby each protected quality was discussed individually and ‘acted out’ but rather a show fundamentally about the subject of ‘difference’.
The timescale for this project was extremely tight and so it was agreed that a pilot show would initially be created to tour to a limited number of locations and then developed further after getting feedback.
Through a process of discussion with Ruth, Shaj and Heather, PuppetSoup came up with a storyline from all of our own lived experiences. The concept was to look at the idea of a dog called ‘Benji’ who lived on a hill just outside of a place called ‘Cat Town’.
By putting a dog in a ‘Cat Town’ there are immediately fundamental perceived differences in the characters.
Over a very short timescale of just three weeks bringing Joshua Macrow onboard for performance, making and show development, PuppetSoup managed to create 15 large scale puppets, a full soundtrack, a basic lighting design and a comprehensive and moving visual story covering the whole pyramid of hate, in a moving and poetic way for ages 7-13.
The show is broken into two parts and paused at the strongest moment in the show to create maximum impact and space for discussion with the performers, police, teachers and council members. In the detailed discussion the children talk about what has happened, how it escalated, how they felt about it and what discrimination is like for Benji the Dog in Cat Town. The show is then concluded in a positive way allowing young people to see that they have a voice and can personally make positive change in their own environment.
The children empathise very strongly, and often emotionally, with Benji the Dog demonstrating that they genuinely feel the effect of the show and understand how discrimation is affecting Benji.
Whilst the creation of the show was extremely hard work for the PuppetSoup team and many eighteen hour days were worked in order to make it happen, PuppetSoup are very proud to have made such a high impact show for such great organisations who were very supportive in the work. ‘Cat Town’ is one of the shows that PuppetSoup hopes to tour extensively as it covers a range of issues targeted for Hate Crime Awareness week and month, including racism, discrimination against disabled people, sexism and other hate crimes but broaches these subjects in a child friendly way.
Whilst touring to schools on the pilot tour PuppetSoup accompanied the show with a puppet making workshop called ‘Different Me’ which encouraged children to make a puppet of themselves, but that looked a little different to how they do, to encourage them to think about how our difference is not a cause for discrimination.
By fundamentally talking about ‘difference’ as a subject this show and project is an excellent catalyst for discussion. The show is emotionally strong, though appropriate for 7-13yrs, but PuppetSoup, Gwent Police, Monmouthshire County Council and the teachers who watched the show agreed that it is important for young people to empathise in order to make positive change.
The children loved the show, the workshop and especially the ‘meet and greet’ the puppets where they all got to meet Benji the Dog who they had engaged so much with.