Talks and Publications

Handspring Puppet Company (hardcover / paperback)

Edited by Jane Taylor. Johannesburg: David Krut Publishing, 2009

Handspring Puppet Company is the first book on Handspring to be published in South Africa. It explores their work in puppet theatre, from Episodes of an Easter Rising to War Horse, providing insights into their philosophy of puppetry and their technical innovations. It is richly illustrated with images from the Handspring archive and includes essays by theatre practitioners and writers who have collaborated with the company over the years.[hr]

Animals in Translation: Temple Grandin’s Influence on Handspring’s Work

Adrian Kohler & Basil Jones, Cape Town: Gorden Institue of Performing Arts, UCT, February 2012.

Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones of the Handspring Puppet Company present GIPCA’s first Great Texts/Big Questions lecture for 2012. Dr. Temple Grandin is a high-functioning autistic who has written with great insight into the way animals and autistic people think. Puppeteers Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones will talk about the influence of Grandin’s book Animals in Translation has had on their work, explaining why they enrole their audiences as “autistics” and what the implications of this way of regarding an audience are for their philosophy of the theatre.

Accompanied by a short performance, I Love You When You’re Breathing, directed by Handspring’s puppeteer/director Jason Potgieter, Kohler and Jones will share their ideas on micro-movement and how central breath is to the life of the object. The presentation will also include an interrogation of their production with the National Theatre of Great Britain, War Horse, and the significance of animal being in a theatrical context.

Click here for the talk on Gipca’s site


Creating Resonance in Emptiness

Janni Younge, paper presented at Puppetry and Post-Dramatic Performance: An International Conference on Performing Objects in the 21st Century. Connecticut: University of Connecticut, April 2011

How the metaphors created with puppets, objects and images in theatre resonate with the constructed nature of reality and the illusion of the self.[ilink url=”″ style=”download”]download[/ilink][hr]

The Dispersed Body

Jane Taylor, paper presented at Puppetry and Post-Dramatic Performance: An International Conference on Performing Objects in the 21st Century. Connecticut: University of Connecticut, April 2011

The paper considers Handspring’s signature form of puppetry, in which puppeteers are visible and expressive performers onstage alongside the puppet figure. Taylor considers the political and philosophical implications of representing the Subject (traditionally considered as a solitary integer) as a member of a communion of beings.[ilink url=”″ style=”download”]download[/ilink][hr]

Eleven Principles of Puppetry

Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler, Filmed & Edited by Clifford Bestall. Cape Town, Produced by the National Theatre, October 2011.

Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler, talk about their 11 principles of puppetry: Devotional State, Eyes and Eyeline, Breath, Puppet Versus Puppeteer, Stillness, Micromovement, Passing The Ball, Gesture, Rhythm, Speed, Touch.[hr]

Ted Talk: The Genius Puppetry Behind WarHorse

Adrian Kohler & Basil Jones. Long Beach, CA: TED2011, March 2011. Duration: 18:12

“Puppets always have to try to be alive,” says Adrian Kohler of the Handspring Puppet Company. Beginning with the tale of a hyena’s subtle paw, puppeteers Kohler and Basil Jones build to the story of their latest astonishment: the wonderfully life-like Joey, the War Horse, who trots (and gallops) convincingly onto the TED stage.

On TED blog[hr]

Statement of Practice

Adrian Kohler, Basil Jones and Tommy Luther. Journal of Modern Craft 2.3, November 2009

A puppet has a different status to any other craft form: its main objective is to strive to live. Putting this another way, a puppet is a craft object which does not function—in a way, does not exist—unless it is being animated by a puppeteer. Here we are assuming that a puppet is by definition an object that is manipulated in front of an audience in order to simulate life. Therefore “seeming to be alive” is in a way the ur-narrative of any puppet. This “striving for life” is its basic story, the story that underlies any other story that may be overlaid on it by a script. So “story” and “life” have to be part of the very nature of any puppet. [ilink url=”″ style=”download”]download[/ilink][hr]

Engineering Movement

Adrian Kohler in Ingenia The Quarterly Magazine of The Royal Academy of Engineering, Issue 40, September 2009

The engineering behind the full-size horse puppets in the award-winning stage production War Horse.[ilink url=”″ style=”download”]download[/ilink][hr]

Financing Handspring Puppet Company

Basil Jones. African Theatre: 7 Companies, edited by Martin Banham. London: James Currey, 2008.

The longevity of any theatre company is dependent on two essential ingredients: continued artistic inspiration backed up by firm and flexible funding. When I was asked to contribute a piece to this issue of the Africa Theatre Series, I offered something on the financing of Handspring because this has been such a necessary aspect of our small company’s enduring success.

Puppetry is a rather eccentric career choice and we never expected to make money as such. Indeed we were often surprised when we did. What you will find below is a brief account of the changing ways in which Handspring has made a living over 25 years. I’d like to acknowledge the assistance of Estelle Randall, Tony Morphet and Nkosinathi Gaar, each of whom read this text and made valuable comments. Any errors it may contain are of course my own. [ilink url=”″ style=”download”]download[/ilink][hr]

The As-if Reality of Puppet Theatre

Jane Taylor, in The Puppet Show. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia: Institute of Contemporary Art, 2008, pp. 52–60.

This paper is largely theoretical and it examines the spectrum of inanimate presences that might be considered “puppets,” in order to understand what they make available to cultural expression. The examples range from an automated bank teller to the IBM compute HAL (from Kubrick’s classic 2001: A Space Odyssey); to the macabre preserved body of Norman Bates’s mother in Psycho. [ilink url=”″ style=”download”]download[/ilink]

Re-Membering History, Stagin Hybridity: Ubu and the Truth Commission

[ilink url=”” style=”download”]download[/ilink]