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Muddy Meets… Peter Morton, Artistic Director of Half A String Theatre

Heartwarming family production, Under the Frozen Moon, is coming to Southern Maltings in Ware, with Hertford Theatre this Christmas. We caught up with the Artistic Director of the company behind it to find out more

Peter Morton / Pamela Raith Photography

Tell us a bit about Half a String…  

Half a String was established in 2016 to tell stories. We create, explore, and share spectacular worlds and original stories and our touring live performances are designed to be enjoyed by the whole family. Most of our work revolves around detailed, intricate puppets which have mechanisms to give them life and our sets and original music transport audience to different places – living and breathing worlds. As well as live performance we publish books, release albums, create digital work, and host workshops to inspire creativity.

How did you get into working with puppets?  

My very first Puppet (when I was young) was called ‘Graham the tent peg’, as my mum always recounts! Growing up, I used to write stories for hand puppets in a similar style to those of The Muppets. My passion continued to University, where I combined my making skills; woodwork, fabrication and carpentry, with performance and puppets. I’ve always found making something that moves a lot more interesting than a static sculpture or still piece of set. Since then it’s all been trial and error, learning from other people’s work and just giving it a go by creating my own work.

Can you share some of your career highlights to date? 

Recently I worked with the Little Amal project run by Good Chance and the Hand Spring Puppet Company. Little Amal is a 3.5m refugee girl puppet who walked from the border of Syria to the UK. She visited loads of different cities along the way throughout Europe, met the Pope and eventually arrived in Canterbury, where I live. I worked with students from the University of Kent to create a giant fox puppet which was 5m long to welcome her to the city. It was just an incredible day – such a spectacle and an important project with a simple, relevant and welcoming message. 

What’s the best bit about your job?  

Getting to be creative every day – that’s when I feel most alive! It’s when I’m designing in the workshop or in rehearsals collaborating with people and there are ideas flying around the room as we pull a project together. It’s also about meeting new people, working on fresh perspectives and learning from them, which is always fantastic.

What inspires you?  

Inspiration could come from anywhere! I immerse myself in a lot of different stuff – from indie games, which have really interesting visuals and stories, to reading and listening to podcasts in my workshop. For example during lockdown my friends and I started to do Bob Ross-style paintings (he was a TV painter in the 70s-80s, big Afro). From that and a couple of podcasts about the history of colours, mixing and colour theory, we created a show called The Lost Colour that we toured throughout the summer. It was about pigments, paints and finding the pink-y-est pink beetle! It’s about being open to things, and taking in visuals, stories, and people.

What are you looking forward to most about bringing Under the Frozen Moon to Ware?  

I’m really looking forward to sharing the story with people – it gives me the warmest feeling. Poet Alice Bryant and I wrote it together, and I am really excited to see the immersive venue experience that Hertford Theatre are bringing to Southern Maltings – I was there recently and met all the volunteers that are working on the project and it was just such a fantastic atmosphere, so warm, lovely and welcoming. I cannot wait!

Can you give us a taster of what we can look forward to from Under the Frozen Moon without giving too much away… 

It’s a really fun, warm, magical adventure about giving a dragon a hug. It’s a heartwarming tale about a little girl called Amka, who goes on an adventure, meeting loads of characters along the way. The show has lots of exciting puppets, wondrous transforming set pieces, and there are even some original songs performed live on stage. Be prepared to get lost in the world of Lunavik, where even the moon is frozen…!

Under the Frozen Moon comes to Southern Maltings in Ware (with Hertford Theatre) from 14 Dec – 3 Jan. Book tickets here.

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