Saved events

Digital Programme: Famous Puppet Death Scenes

A rather sad looking puppet stands in a booth with a sign above their head that reads 'existential anguish'.

Discover more about The Old Trout Puppet Workshop and Famous Puppet Death Scenes in this digital programme, kicking off the London International Mime Festival from Tue 24 Jan.

Welcome to the Barbican for this year’s London International Mime Festival, guaranteed to brighten the dark days of January.

We’re delighted to be working again with Helen Lannaghan and Joseph Seelig, the festival’s Directors, to bring four exciting and very different productions to the Theatre and The Pit between 24th January and 5th February, as well as screening The Unknown in Barbican Cinema 1 on 29th January. The circus-set melodrama is one of the greatest silent films of all time, starring “the man of a thousand faces” Lon Chaney and a young Joan Crawford.

We’re thrilled to once again be presenting international work on our stages. In the Theatre, Still Life, rising stars of Belgium’s acclaimed contemporary theatre scene present the UK premiere of Flesh, a playful, disruptive drama about our need for affection and recognition. This is followed by Olivier Award-winning dance theatre innovators Peeping Tom who return to the Barbican with the UK premiere of Triptych (The Missing Door, The Lost Room and The Hidden Floor), their new and most ambitious production yet.

In The Pit, Canadian Old Trout Puppet Workshop make their Barbican debut with Famous Puppet Death Scenes, a series of macabre vignettes featuring a range of different types of puppets perishing in a variety of ghoulish ways. This is followed by Dorothy James and Andy Manjuck’s Bill’s 44th, a poignant, puppet tragi-comedy for grown-ups created in pre-vaccine pandemic times.

Whether you’re here to see one, some or all of this year’s London International Mime Festival shows, we hope you have a fantastic time.

Toni Racklin, Head of Theatre and Dance, Barbican


We’re delighted to welcome the Old Trout’s hilarious puppet tragedy for its London premiere. Steeped in the world of Edward Gorey and penny dreadfuls, their quick-fire procession of short, and sometimes very short, melodramas never fails to touch the hardest heart.

Now in its 47th year, the Mime Festival is once again proud to partner with the Barbican in presenting exceptional international artists in London.

Helen Lannaghan and Joseph Seelig, London International Mime Festival Directors

About the show

Who could forget the first time they saw a puppet die? It’s one of the most emotionally devastating experiences a person can have. To see an otherwise inanimate object with cute googly eyes and a funny voice come to life before your eyes fills us with delight and wonder, and then to see that life snatched away drives a dagger deep into our psyches, a dagger which then opens up at the pointy end to reveal a little dagger mouth, that screams inside our fragile hearts: “Please, no, don’t let the puppet die! For in that puppet’s death, do I not sense the dread whispers of my own impending mortality?”

Great works of art ask questions like that – questions that maybe can’t ever truly be answered, but must be asked again and again by each generation anew. And thusly every era creates its own masterpiece of puppet theatre, which becomes the fulcrum of all our hopes and fears; eternal works like Bipsy and Mumu Go to the Zoo by Fun Freddy or Nordo Frot’s The Feverish Heart have not only defined their times, they have shown us who we really are, deep down, where nobody else can see. We owe those shows, and those artists, so, so much.

But, my gosh, who’s got the time these days to see an entire puppet show? Yes: back before the internet, people were used to being bored, so they could sit still for a surprising amount of time without wondering if they were missing something more exciting happening somewhere else. But now we expect our emotional devastation to be delivered like a kung fu punch to our soft bits so we can move on to the next intense experience as quickly as possible. And so, the Old Trout Puppet Workshop has gathered together, for your existential anguish, ONLY THE MOST DRAMATIC BITS of the GREATEST MASTERWORKS OF PUPPET THEATRE throughout history: namely, the part where the puppet dies. No need to sit through laborious exposition or plotting or character development – we leap straight to the laser beam point, like a “Now That’s What I Call Music!” compilation album with every single song that has ever made you cry.

It’s a horrible thing to experience. You should go do something more cheerful. You only have so much time left.

About the Company

The Old Trout Puppet Workshop was founded back in the blustery winter of 1999 by a gang of old buddies in a coal-heated shack on a ranch in southern Alberta. Since those distant and savage days, the Old Trouts have grown to become one of Canada’s best-known artistic exports. Now based in Calgary, they’ve made puppet shows for both children and adults that tour the world, written and illustrated several books, crafted immense sculptures, and made films (including a Juno Award-winning video for Feist, and a Christmas special with the National Film Board)… not to mention helping to run a puppet festival, teaching extensively and creating large-scale shows with companies like the National Arts Centre, Theatre Calgary, and Vancouver Opera. Most recently, they teamed up with Calgary Opera to create a brand new puppet opera based on an ancient Greek ghost story, the perhaps a-little-too-aptly-named Ghost Opera. Next up: who knows? They’re working on adaptations of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, The Threepenny Opera, and Faust, plus a video game, an animated film using motion capture suits, and touring Famous Puppet Death Scenes to anywhere that will invite them, because they are desperate to be wanted.

About the London International Mime Festival

London International Mime Festival (LIMF) promotes contemporary visual theatre. Its productions have been nominated for, and won, Olivier Awards, and in 2017 the festival was honoured with the Empty Space - Peter Brook Special Achievement Award for its work over four decades. Founded in 1977, LIMF is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation. 

'The brilliant annual festival of visual theatre, dance, circus and puppetry’ The Guardian


For the Old Trout Puppet Workshop

Performed by Louisa Ashton, Aya Nakamura and Teele Uustani
Directed by Peter Balkwill, Pityu Kenderes and Judd Palmer
Stage managed by Bea Galloway
Costumes designed and made by Jen Gareau
Lights designed by David Duffy and Amelia Newbert
Assistant lighting design by Ash Copeland
Sounds made by Mike Rinaldi
Technical direction by Amelia Newbert, Bea Galloway and Pityu Kenderes
Generally managed by Bob Davis
Set built by Riley Miljan/Tech Art Custom Creations

For the Barbican

Barbican Centre Board 
Tom Sleigh 
Deputy Chair 
Sir William Anthony Bowater Russell 
Deputy Chair 
Tobi Ruth Adebekun 
Board Members 
Munsur Ali, Randall Anderson, Michael 'Mikey J' Asante, Farmida Bi, Tijs Broeke, Zulum Elumogo, Gerard Grech, Ann Holmes, Wendy Hyde, Charles Edward Lord, Wendy Mead, Graham Packham, Mark Page, Jens Riegelsberger, Jane Roscoe, Despina Tsatsas and Irem Yerdelen  

Clerk to the Board 
Ben Dunleavy 

Barbican Centre Trust 
Farmida Bi CBE  
Vice Chair 
Robert Glick OBE 

Tom Bloxham MBE, Stephanie Camu , Tony Chambers , Cas Donald, Tracey Harrison , Jeff Holland , David Kapur, Ann Kenrick, Kendall Langford, Alasdair Nisbet, Tom Sleigh and Sian Westerman 

Chief Executive Officer   
Claire Spencer  
Artistic Director  
Will Gompertz  
Director of Operations and Buildings  
Jonathon Poyner  
Director of Development  
Natasha Harris  
Director of People, Inclusion and Culture  
Ali Mirza 
Senior Executive Assistant to Claire Spencer and Will Gompertz  
Jo Daly

Theatre Department 
Head of Theatre and Dance  
Toni Racklin  
Senior Production Manager 
Simon Bourne 
Leanne Cosby, Jill Shelley, Fiona Stewart 
Assistant Producers 
Anna Dominian, Saxon Mudge, Mali Siloko 
Production Managers 
Jamie Maisey, Lee Tasker 
Technical Managers 
Steve Daly, Jane Dickerson, Nik Kennedy, Martin Morgan, Stevie Porter 
Stage Managers 
Lucinda Hamlin, Charlotte Oliver 
Technical Supervisors 
James Breedon, John Gilroy, Jamie Massey, Adam Parrott, Tom Salmon, Lawrence Sills, Chris Wilby
PA to Head of Theatre 
David Green 

Production Administrator 
Caroline Hall 
Production Assistant 
Andrew Pellett 
Eleanor Foster, Kendell Foster, Burcham Johnson, Christian Lyons, Charlie Mann, Josh Massey, Matt Nelson 
Stage Door 
Julian Fox, aLbi Gravener 

Creative Learning 
Senior Producer 
Lauren Monaghan-Pisano  
Creative Learning Producer 
Lauren Brown 
Creative Learning Assistant Producer 
Rikky Onefeli 

Marketing Department 
Acting Head of Marketing 
Ben Jefferies 
Marketing Manager (Theatre and Dance) 
Kyle Bradshaw 
Marketing Assistant (Theatre and Dance) 
Rebecca Moore  

Communications Department 
Head of Communications 
James Tringham 
Communications Manager (Theatre and Dance) 
Communications Assistant (Theatre, Dance and Cinema) 
Sumayyah Sheikh 

Audience Experience  
Deputy Head of Audience Experience & Operations  
Sheree Miller  
Ticket Sales Managers  
Lucy Allen, Oliver Robinson, Ben Skinner, Jane Thomas
Operations Managers  
Seán Carter, Richard Long, Rob Norris, Elizabeth Davies-Sadd, Samantha Teatheredge 
Operations Manager (Health & Safety)  
Mo Reideman  
Audience Event & Planning Manager  
Freda Pouflis
Venue Managers  
Scott Davies, Tilly Devine, Gary Hunt, Nicola Lake, Tabitha Goble  
Assistant Venue Managers  
Suman Cheema, Giovana Lorensatto, Maria Pateli, Joanna Quilty, Cherry Xi, Daniel Young 
Crew Management  
Dave Magwood, Rob Magwood, James Towell  
Access and Licensing Manager  
Rebecca Oliver  
Security Operations Manager 
James Cocklin 

Registered charity no. 294282

Two puppets in a travel case appear to be sailing on the sea in a boat. The words fear and desire are painted onto the back of the travel case on either side of them.


Louisa Ashton – Performer
Originally training as a dancer, Louisa fell down the stairs backstage dressed as Nana the Dog in 2006, broke her ankle and quickly decided to ditch jazz hands for a sweaty, grimy life of puppetry. Based in Manchester, she is now the Co-Artistic Director of puppetry company Sparkle and Dark, and is an associate puppetry artist with Half a String Theatre. She has performed with companies such as the Royal Shakespeare Company, Little Angel Theatre, V&A Museum, Polka Theatre, Paper Balloon, Theatre Témoin, and others. She is also training to be a giggle doctor, working with children in hospitals around the UK.

Aya Nakamura – Performer
Aya is a London-based theatre-maker, puppeteer, and puppet maker, originally from Japan. For the last 15 years, she has worked on many children's and adult puppet productions for a variety of theatre companies including: Improbable, Polka Theatre, Handbendi Brúðuleikhús (Iceland), Horse and Bamboo, Norwich Puppet Theatre, Unicorn Theatre, Oily Cart, and Wattle & Daub Figure Theatre. Aya also runs the award-winning company Rouge28 Theatre, which has toured productions nationally and internationally. More information can be found at

Teele Uustani – Performer
Teele is a London-based performer/puppeteer from Estonia. She trained at the Lecoq pedagogy-based London International School of Performing Arts (LISPA), and studied puppetry at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. As an actress and a puppeteer, she has worked with companies such as: Theatre-Rites, Zou Theatre (CAN), The Paper Cinema, Maison Foo, Significant Object, Strangeface, Dotted Line Theatre, Genius Sweatshop, and Tête à Tête. She has collaborated with international groups and performed in several site-specific theatre productions both outdoors and indoors as well as been involved in several short films, music videos and theatre projects as a deviser, puppet maker, and assistant director.

Peter Balkwill – Co-Director
Peter is one of the founding Co-Artistic Directors of the Old Trout Puppet Workshop. He is also an assistant professor of drama in the School of Creative and Performing Arts at the University of Calgary. In addition to working with the Old Trouts, Pete explores creative projects with a host of other artists, mostly with a concern for intercultural exploration. This kind of work has him tagged in with Papermoon Puppet Theatre in Indonesia, as well as projects involving Blackfoot and Stoney First Nations of southern Alberta. He carries unspeakable gratitude for his journey with fellow Trouts.

Pityu Kenderes – Co-Director
Pityu is one of the founding Co-Artistic Directors of the Old Trout Puppet Workshop. Pityu is a sculptor and painter and puppeteer, in live theatre and for film. He has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Nova Scotia College of Arts and Design, and a graduate degree in Fine Arts from the University of Calgary. He lives in a big old house overlooking the ocean in Nova Scotia with his wonderful partner Jen, and a farm full of animals! He is overjoyed to be a part of the team that is bringing Famous Puppet Death Scenes to the Barbican for the London International Mime Festival. It is truly an honour to work with such fine people.

Judd Palmer – Co-Director
Judd is one of the founding Co-Artistic Directors of the Old Trout Puppet Workshop, and so thinking up puppet shows is his main bag, God help him. Judd is also a writer and illustrator – three of his books have been shortlisted for the Governor-General’s Award for Children’s Literature – and long ago he was the singer and slide banjo player in the Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir. He lives on Vancouver Island with the woman of his dreams and their son Max, who is six years old now but will grow up to be a great conqueror. Except the good kind of conqueror. A conqueror for goodness.

Beatrice Galloway – Stage Manager
Bea is a Belgo-British production stage manager who trained at the Edinburgh School of Lighting, Sound and Stage Management. Recent theatre shows include: The Cart (Oily Cart), In the Weeds (Mull Theatre), Tank & Me (Collectif and then...), Space to Be (Oily Cart), unReal City (dreamthinkspeak & Access All Areas), All Wrapped Up (Oily Cart), Belly of the Whale (Ockham's Razor), Flight Paths (Extant), Dead and Breathing (Arch 468), and Cuddles (Arch 468). She has also worked on exhibitions (Beasts of London - Museum of London), events (Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014), and film (The Lady in the Van).

Key production sponsors

Canada Council for the Arts, Alberta Foundation for the Arts, Calgary Arts Development Authority, Calgary Foundation

Famous Puppet Death Scenes was developed as a creative residency with the PuSH Festival in Vancouver, and was also supported by the Banff Centre’s Creation and Development program. The Old Trouts are very grateful for their assistance.