The boys met during a mime training in 2001, quickly discovering their complementary backgrounds (Jamie: special effects make up, mask making & film making / Michael: puppetry, theatre & circus) produced a unique chemistry and a bubbling stew of possibilities. They did not appreciate this meeting would change their lives.
In an attic workshop high above the bohemian Moseley Village the ideas percolated during several years of experiments, reinventing the puppet and the mask for a contemporary audience. Motivated by street theaters delivery of a truly democratic, inclusive, and accessible theatre experience, in the beating cultural and economic heart of our communities - they worked many long nights. Creature Encounter's Jabberwocky Ark of characters emerged in 2006 and Michael & Jamie continue to create and animate their fabulous beasts.
They believe that a thriving street art scene is a key barometer and ambassador of the cultural health of a nation. That street arts lead communities to feel the environment in which they live and work is more than a collection of buildings, it is an immersive, interactive cultural experience. Where art enlivens the streets and brings an opulent cultural ambience, it is the symptom of a community that thrives rather than just survives, a place worth caring about. Such communities are desirable because they fore-fill our basic human needs for celebration, connection, variety and significance.
Michael and Jamie have over thirty years of experience within the industry so expect spectacular costumes, strong and dynamic characters and absolute professionalism. This is what they are here to do, this is how they make their dent in the universe.
As a child I had a passion for puppetry, years later my Father would tell my then girlfriend how he loved taking the boy I'd been to puppet shows, just to watch my face light up. I don't know why or how this passion formed I just know its always been there. Inspired by the work of the late great Jim Henson (al-ha The Muppets) I saw puppets could transcend theatre's proscenium arch stepping into the real world via the magic lantern of television. This notion of puppets characters liberated from the theatrical space and sharing the human realm went in deep.
I grew up in the new circus movement where I trained & performed in all aspects of contemporary circus and mime. Sun St Circus was wedged between the vast Victorian cemetery and the canal side gas works. I arrived at 11 having taught myself to ride the unicycle. The day I saw it in the bike shop window is as clear as yesterday. I remember feeling the hunger, a quickening and knowing that this object was somehow close to my spirit, it was a feeling that changed the next ten years of my life.
A resurgence in my interest in puppetry and in blending it with the forms of circus lead me to an Actor Training. For three years I used physical theatre to combine the puppet, the mask, and latterly the clown. In a rundown Nottingham community centre I found an old clown tutor, bald as a pate, and uncommonly serious about being funny. In an abandoned Stourbridge glass factory a mask maker and teacher bent on divining humanities archetypal strains of personality and capturing each within a mask. In the back streets of Venice an old Venetian mask maker whose skin was as tanned and thick as the leather he fashioned his characters from.
These techniques, skills and inspirations I've collected, each master I've sat with, all have percolated with my essence in the dark deep regions of my brain, mingling with my personality till suddenly we reached maturity. Creature Encounter formed in 2006 the year I turned thirty, and the birth of a life's work began. As a young man I dreamt of combining my passion for the puppet, mask and clown into a profession that served my society and our wider global community. Of challenging peoples preconceptions about what these forms could offer, and giving back to the world that infinite sense of the possible which puppetry instilled in me...it still motivates me today.
Like Chaplin I understand character grows from costume, content from context, so we create fantastical costumes to inspire incredible characters and performance. My hope is that our work lives long in the memory of those who encounter it and that we leave this world (and your event) a little better for our having been there.
In the beginning, there was pastry dough...
My Earliest memories of creativity are modelling animals under the watchful eye of my Grandmother. A quick mix of flour and water and I was set up for hours. I must have been no more than four at the time. In those early years, I hoarded cereal packets and cardboard for making robots and toy dens. I sketched and painted everything I saw. I even knitted clothes for my teddy bear! It was a prolific and magical time. The cavity under my captain's bed was brim full of projects... I loved being surrounded by that stuff. Ideas brought to life!
A decade later, the family garage had firmly become my workshop space. My younger Brother was afforded a clean, controlled area dedicated to his passion for radio controlled cars but I avidly occupied the rest and filled every spare corner! With the shutter door often wide open to the elements, all manner of masks, props and puppets were formed and forged in that busy room. Inspired by movies, books and comics, it was a frenzied time of hours lost in total focus and devotion. In the days before leaving that house forever, I remember the concrete garage floor more than anything. Spattered with plaster, paint and glue, it told a story of the feverish beginnings to an adult artist's life now in full flow.
When asked, I struggle to answer the question of where that creative drive came from. Put simply, I don't ever remember a time when I didn't feel the urge to take something from my imagination and make it real. Whether that creativity came through the genes or from outside influence, I remain grateful and forever humbled that it chose to make a home in me.
In 2002, I met Michael and inspirational sparks flew immediately! I saw that the creativity I knew so well had decided to live deep within him too. In those first passionate conversations about performance, puppetry and changing the world, I don't know if either of us could have ever comprehended the shared journey of rich, creative passion we find ourselves still on. It's far too easy to gush about how wonderful everything has been and gloss over the struggles. We've disagreed, we've argued and we've angered but for some magical reason, a force of nature much greater than ourselves has always kept us close and understanding of each other's creative passions and desires.
I believe that the partnership between Mike and I has and continues to enrich both our lives on every level. Continually, I wish that blessing on every creative team out there.
In recent years and despite the endless draw on time that adult life commands, I have made an personal pledge to keep myself as available as possible to that profound, magical creativity in whichever form it chooses to arrive in. For every place we perform in and every crowd that gathers around our work, for every smile and laugh raised, for each brightened face, be it aged or new to the world, I have the sincerest gratitude and an ever deepening sense that whilst we certainly haven't changed the world, it becomes just a tiny bit happier each time we do what we do.