Puppetry perfection and family film fun

'The Iron Giant' on April 3, is inspired by Ted Hughes's children's novel.
'The Iron Giant' on April 3, is inspired by Ted Hughes's children's novel.

The Puppet Animation Festival of Scotland is now in its 28th year, and continues to thrive, visiting small and rural towns across the country.

It returns to Banchory’s Woodend Barn in the Easter holidays and offers a series of events that promise to delight and enthrall young audiences.

The festival begins at the Barn on Monday, April 2 with the acclaimed Clydebuilt Puppet Theatre’s ‘Peter and the Wolf’ which features a life-size wolf puppet.

It ends on Wednesday, April 11 with the animated film ‘The Secret of Kells’ featuring colourful Vikings and serpent gods.

This year sees the integration of animated films alongside the puppet shows, which are the traditional parts of the festival, for the first time.

In addition to ‘Peter and the Wolf’, the other puppetry welcomed to the Barn includes Garlic Theatre’s spellbinding ‘Fiddlesticks’ on April 4. Storybox Theatre’s ‘The Pea, the Bean and The Enormous Turnip’ takes the stage on April 9 and is sure to enchant children of all ages.

“Stories are brought to life in a live performance context as part of the festival, powerfully inspiring the imagination of children,” says Simon Hart, the artistic director of Puppet Animation Scotland.

He adds that the puppeteers are “vibrant professionals who have taken Scottish puppetry to over a million people in the UK.”

When asked about the films that have been included at the Barn this year, Simon reflected that “being transported as a group is incredibly powerful”, to see a film on a “large screen offers a much more vivid impression than watching on dvd.”

The Barn is an excellent venue for both film and puppet shows and the Puppet Animation Festival enjoys showcasing its events in Banchory.

Each film shown this Easter tells a captivating story and is exciting for children, but they have a broader appeal. Those who may not consider a puppet festival for them, perhaps an older sibling or two, may be persuaded by the films with their skilled artwork and excellent production values.

As well as ‘The Secret of Kells’ there is ‘The Iron Giant’ on April 3, inspired by Ted Hughes’s children’s novel about a nine year old boy who makes friends with a giant robot; and the fantasy adventure, ‘Spirited Away’ on April 10, which is the most successful Japanese film of all time from the Tokyo-based Studio Ghibli.

All performances are at 2pm on the dates specified, with a film ticket costing £4 and the puppet shows £5 (£6 on the door) plus booking fee.