Waterloo Sunset giant puppet theatre

Waterloo Sunset was a giant puppet theatre piece for kids created by Jack Finlay and the team of the Electric Theatre Workshop as part of Dumfries bicentenary celebrations of the battle of Waterloo victory over Napoleon.

Before I saw the play I wondered how the puppet theatre would be used to present a tale of a fairly remote historic event and communicate some complex political issues to children under an hour. And after watching it I conceded that it was a bold, entertaining and memorable piece of theatre which created a narrative of a grand scale.

A little boy called Jack from a small fishing village is upset about his father’s disappearance. In search of his father he embarks on a perilous journey across the channel with his sidekick Gull. This journey would allow them to encounter the dragon and eventually lead them to the fields of Waterloo where Wellington and the allied British and Prussian forces finally defeated Napoleon’s army.

Brightly coloured oversized carnival masks and good old political mockery so inherent to traditional puppet shows were interlaced with the interludes allowing kids to participate in the performance.

Waterloo sunset was originally designed to be performed outdoors in front of the Midsteeple in Dumfries town centre, hence the use of the larger than life body puppets for more visibility and carnivalesque character of public street celebrations. However, on the morning of the show due to the unusually high winds that could damage the masks it was transferred indoors to Studio One of the Electric Theatre.

Even indoors, the larger than life puppet characters and part-marionette mythical dragon figure combined with fairly minimalistic props remained effective, while the production’s participatory aspects were enhanced due to a more intimate setting.

Little boy Jack from a fishermen village is upset about his father's disappearance

Little boy Jack from a fishermen village is upset about his father's disappearance

Electric Theatre Workshop play to mark the bicentenery of the battle of Waterloo

Together with his friend Gull he embarks on a dangerous boat journey across the channel in search of his father

Little boy Jack and his friend Gull meet the dragon in the puppet play Waterloo Sunset

The travellers encounter a dragon

Giant puppet of Napoleon

Little angry man Napoleon

The baker and Napoleon large scale puppets

European traders of various nationalities refuse to supply the army of the rude little man

Puppet theatre - Wellington defeats Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo

Wellington defeats Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo

Jack cheers up the starving Gull

Jack cheers up the starving Gull

Young spectators interact with the little boy Jack during Waterloo Sunset giant puppet theatre play

The show encouraged the young spectators to engage

Children finish Waterloo Sunset performance with a dance

Children finish Waterloo Sunset performance with a dance

Red balloons for the fallen - 56 of them were released outside to commemorate the brave Scotsmen from the area who gave their lives at Waterloo

Red balloons for the fallen - 56 of them were released outside to commemorate the brave Scotsmen from the area who gave their lives at Waterloo

If you want to see more photos from this event, including the outdoor performance and red balloon release please visit my Dumfries Waterloo victory anniversary celebrations on Flickr.