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Sarah Lyle - Puppet Director

Week one rehearsals


The power of puppets

When we see puppets on tv, in real life, onstage we are instantly fascinated, curious and entertained. Puppets have a magical power that enable us to see past what’s really in front of us.

I mean we all know there’s a person or two inside there, right?

We forget that they are even there or literally don’t see them.

How does this happen? Because we want to believe.

This blog details my journey as Puppet Director on Rough Girls at the Lyric Theatre Belfast, 2021.

Designing puppets -where to begin?

This is its own creative process and is somewhat more technical than people may initially think.

When creating a puppet for a play, I always begin with examining what's in the text and desired intention. I mean, the script literally hands us everything we initially need to dream about what the puppets should and could be. My biggest advice with this is - Dream Big! The design will most likely be pulled back at a later stage when other production design factors come into play, so, allow yourself to 'go there'.

Have fun with the make up of your puppets!

Rough Girls puppet design

True to my words, I began with the script. I spent lots of time thinking about:

- Why the character is a puppet?

- The intention of this decision?

- The desired effect on the audience?

- The target audience?

Also, there were many wonderful discussions about these elements with Rough Girls Director Kimberley Sykes.

Then, I dissected the costume design by the amazing, Kimie Nakoro. Considering, what the base puppet needs to look like:

- What does the puppet need to wear?

- What props do they need to have?

And, how can the design best be hung upon these factors, regarding:

- Internal structure

- Puppeteer manipulation

I had a play with props and objects.

Once I had some answers, I let me mind go FREEEEE!


Draw, play, sketch, measure, discuss, manipulate....

After a good play and draw, I had something on paper I could talk in detail about with other creatives. Which enabled us collectively to embark on a gorgeous journey of creativity and discovery together.

The build

Then I was in a position to hand my thoughts and first draft designs over to the puppet maker. The team with the skills to make the page plans and prop play come to life. The wonderful Mike Smith.

End of week one rehearsals.


It was a busy week, we came upon answers quickly, as the process is short. We are onstage in 3 weeks. For week 2 rehearsals we will work with prototype puppets I have made. We will see how these work for us and discover additions and adaptions we need to make, and relay these as we go to the puppet maker.

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