Puppetry - Winner 2010
Mervyn Millar is a theatre director and puppetry specialist. He has directed productions at theatres including the National Theatre (Cottesloe), Battersea Arts Centre, Theatre Royal Plymouth and has toured internationally with his company, wireframe.
Like a lot of puppet makers, he initially learnt by making what he needed for his own shows. With further training at the London School of Puppetry, and by working with more experienced puppeteers including Sue Buckmaster, Steve Tiplady and Handspring, he began to refine his technique and craftsmanship and work as a collaborator with other directors and designers. Handspring Puppet Company have been an especially influential company and he has worked with them on several productions including Tall Horse and Or You Could Kiss Me.
He has directed the puppetry in War Horse for the National Theatre and Handspring in its London, New York, Toronto and Berlin productions, and has been part of the creative team from the first workshops, including appearing in the show for the first two seasons. In 2012 and 2013 he was Artistic Director of the "Handspring UK" project, directing their production of Crow for the Festival 2012, and co-directing the Jubilee Salute for the National Theatre and Stiller at the Bayerische Staatschauspiel in Munich. Working with his new company Significant Object, Millar has designed puppets for the National Theatre of Scotland, Sir Paul McCartney and Schauspielhaus Zürich amongst others..
His collaboration with Kazuko Hohki and Andy Cox, Evidence for the Existence of Borrowers, won a Total Theatre Award and a Herald Angel Award. He is the author of The Horse’s Mouth, about the development process of War Horse, and The Journey of The Tall Horse, documenting a collaboration between two African puppet companies. Both books are published by Oberon Books.
Millar describes working in theatre as storytelling; puppetry allows imaginative leaps that both liberate and define that form of storytelling and bring its ‘liveness’ to the surface. In recent years, a lot of Millar’s work has been in training performers and finding languages to communicate techniques of puppeteering.
In his Fellowship year Millar designed and developed a live animation technique using a rotating lightbox, set into a table with clear panes above it, which relays live video feed from above, creating a layered space for storytelling that accommodates, silhouettes, found images, text and close-up camera work. This technique was partly developed in a workshop period with theatre artist Chris Goode.