I am Molly Freeman, co-artistic director of Smoking Apples, an award-winning puppetry and visual theatre company. My job involves lots of different things, including performing, puppeteering, training, teaching, producing, directing, making, designing, fundraising, marketing and everything in between!
We formed Smoking Apples in 2010 and I met my fellow co-artistic directors, Matt Lloyd and Hattie Thomas, whilst we were studying on BA (Hons) European Theatre Arts (ETA). During the second year of the course, everyone is sent on a European placement and we were lucky enough to be sent to Prague, to study Alternative Theatre and Puppetry. Before going, we hardly knew each other. To this day, we are very different people but something magical happened during that trip and we came back with a yearning to continue exploring puppetry. As this wasn’t something widely taught on ETA, we stuck together on our return, originally just to train and practice our puppetry skills. This then grew into a show and we decided to stay together as Smoking Apples. The rest, as they say, is history.
Although much of our puppetry training didn’t come directly from ETA, so many of the principles of the course form the backbone of what we do. Working as an ensemble, listening and responding are essential in both the rehearsal room and in shows. Working with precision, in detail and from observation are also key things that are integral to our puppetry style. All of these things were introduced to us on ETA and have been fine-tuned and adapted over the years. The most essential thing, however, that ETA brought to us, as a collective and to me, personally is actually something less tangible than a technique or practice, it is an attitude. One of dogged determination, of perseverance and of resistance, despite the circumstances you might find yourself in. This work and life ethic has saved me, and the company, more times than I can remember!
I’ve been so fortunate to have some fantastic career highlights with Smoking Apples including touring CELL to Malaysia and Hong Kong in 2017 (it really is the best thing to get paid to do what you love and travel the world), performing to thousands of people, in a giant Lion head, during the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Athlete’s Parades (a collaboration with Kinetika), and more recently puppeteering in a set of Cheerio’s adverts (2018). It really is a huge pleasure to be able to work across such a different variety of puppetry performance including indoor theatre, outdoor large scale puppetry and film/TV.
My history of work doesn’t just include puppetry but also includes directing, dramaturgy, teaching and producing and, for me, ETA equips you with the attitude to approach things, to apply your existing skills in new areas and not be afraid to do so. To anyone considering ETA as a training option for them, if you’re ready to be bold, be brave and be challenged, this is the course for you – welcome to the family.
Smoking Apples are currently touring Flux around the UK.