Q&A with Mask Maker for Ben & Holly's Little Kingdom
Find out how the characters Ben & Holly are brought to life on stage with masks and costumes in this interview with Russel Dean, Creative Consultant.
What makes masks so special? How long does the process take to make? How many hours and how many people?
I make all our masks myself. Masks are special because they allow audiences to enter a childlike state of wonder and possibility. Masks may take anything from a morning to a week to make depending on the type of mask. For Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom each mask takes between three to five days.
What considerations do you have to take into account when making masks?
Aside from the obvious concerns of actors being able to see and making the mask comfortable for them to wear, a good mask will often have three or four expressions hidden within it. These can sometimes take a while to achieve, as a change of a mere millimetre here or there can help suggest another emotion.
Is there anything special about the masks for Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom? What’s exciting about this project?
The masks for Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom are very special as they bring a theatrical vitality and excitement to such well-loved characters. Unlike ‘skins’ they are capable of conveying a wide range of emotions and create much more vibrant performances.
I’m also particularly excited to be involved in a show that my own three year-old daughter loves. She was enthralled by the recent live Peppa Pig show and can’t wait to see Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom come to life on stage.
How did you get into doing this? When was your company, Strangeface Theatre Company, formed and why?
Strangeface (formerly known as The Blue Chicken) has been touring for ten years. My career as a mask-maker really started with Trestle Theatre Company back in the mid-nineties. From there, I went on to form my own company as a kind of paid hobby, doing outdoor shows for English Heritage. We got a following and have gone on from there. We now tour nationally and internationally.
What have been your favourite projects so far and why?
In 2010 we were invited to perform in Iran at the Tehran International Puppet Festival and won a prestigious Mobarak award. I’m also enjoying our present project, Pinocchio. Our version is more Roald Dahl than Disney and our audiences love it.