Artist Clíodhna Noonan to host two puppet workshops in Dundalk

An Tain Arts Centre

Aine Kenny


Aine Kenny


Artist Clíodhna Noonan to host two puppet workshops in Dundalk

Artist Clíodhna Noonan to host two puppet workshops in Dundalk

Well-known artist Clíodhna Noonan will host a professional development workshop for early years practitioners on Friday February 16th at 10am, in An Tain Arts Centre, Dundalk .

This workshop will examine the puppetry of ‘poor theatre’ and the magnificent legacy of Lithuanian puppeteer Vitalijus Mazuras. Participants will also explore Swedish legends, folk tales and storytelling techniques for early childhood, using some of the beautiful puppets of Mazuras' world. Tickets cost €25 and can be purchased in An Táin or online.

On Saturday the 17th of February at 10am, at 11.30am, parents, guardians and children are invited to Troll Puppet Tales, which is an interactive theatre experience for babies and small children. Swedish fairy tales and troll culture will be explored. The trolls were made by Vitalijus himself. Tickets cost €8 and can be bought in An Táin or online.

Clíodhna is the director of Acting Up! Arts. Acting Up! Arts is an initiative which encourages early years arts performances and offers training workshops for educators. Acting Up! is also a member of the EU Smallsize Network Association and Theatre for Young Audiences Ireland.

Clíodhna says that it is important to promote the arts and performing arts to young children. “Creativity helps to develop confidence, communication and self-expression,” she says. “Performing arts is also important because of the human element of interaction in an increasingly digital world… there is also a body of research that shows how a shared cultural experience can combat feelings of isolation in new parenthood, particularly for mothers at risk.”

The professional development workshop on the 16th of February will have a number of elements to it. “The workshop is aimed at early years educators as continuing professional development or artists wishing to explore this age group as an audience,” she says. “There will be a presentation of Vitalijus, a presentation of the grotesque style, practice with and presentation of the witch puppet, and storytelling from Swedish Fairy Tales illustrated by John Bauer,” Clíodhna says. “Participants will then build a troll kingdom, making a troll in the grotesque style with cheap, poor, everyday materials, and then we conclude with a discussion and feedback session about arts practice.”

Clíodhna’s workshops are inspired by the renowned Lithuanian puppeteer, Vitalijus Mazuras. “I met Vitalijus and his wonderful wife Nijole at a national theatre festival in Kelme in Lithuania,” she says. “We talked across a gap of 40 years about theatre practices, puppets and how children have changed.”

“Vitalijus was a teacher in the past and I could see his desire to share his skill with someone who wanted to learn,” Clíodhna explains. “Mazuras puppets are on display in various museums in Vilnius but his name is not written beside them and I wanted to somehow document the artistry of such a great master of puppetry, in an age when machinery is replacing human skill.”

“I am not a puppeteer but I want to learn. Vitalijus has been inspired by my respect for his skill and talent and by my openness to learn. We chat a lot over coffee as he shows me his older puppets and he tells me about travels behind the iron curtain and elsewhere during various periods of occupation in Lithuania,” Clíodhna reveals. “Then he showed me his new creations, handmade for me, which will be used in the performance of one of the fairy tales in late 2018.”

“Vitalijus is very proud that his story and artistry will now reach Ireland with me as its caretaker in a way. This is the first set of workshops that will take place in Letterkenny, Tallaght and Dundalk as part of the Young People and Children Education bursary.”

“Vitalijus is a true master of puppetry with all the discipline that it requires and I am a free spirit, enjoying the amazing opportunity to develop workshop and storytelling practices with his puppets and style. It is really fun!” Clíodhna exclaims.

Troll Puppet Tales takes place on the 17th of February and Clíodhna is excited for the children and adults to see the Swedish fairy tales.  “I was given a gift of a beautiful book of Swedish fairy tales, illustrated by John Bauer, by a close friend from Skerries who grew up in America, in a Nordic community,” she says.

“A few months later I met Vitalijus for the first time and I thought the illustrations in the book were very reminiscent of his puppet style and colour palette somehow. Little by little the project was born, and I love it when this kind of inspiration comes my way,” she adds.

Clíodhna says children and parents alike enjoy the performances. “Parents have always been hugely supportive of my sessions. I think the atmosphere of calm, along with a moment to share with their offspring, in a cultural setting has always been appreciated. Children grow every week and sometimes in the regular weekly sessions, I see how they advance so quickly when they are engaged, and how they communicate clearly even without words,” Clíodhna reveals.

“Very young children are my absolute favourite audience… the challenge with this project is of course the grotesque style of the puppets, but I believe young children will find them fascinating,” Clodagh says.

“I have only been briefly through Dundalk as I lived in Skerries in the past and I worked for a year in Newry. I am very much looking forward to working at An Táin and would like to thank Elaine Cronin and her team for hosting,” Clíodhna concludes.