Caroline Astell-Burt

Current research interests of Caroline Astell-Burt led her to travel to Japan in 2015 to study at Hitomiza-za a puppet theatre which includes the rare otome bunraku.  This is women's bunraku designed for women to perform in Japan in the 1920's and '30's.  It is extremely rare and has led to the first UK performances by professional puppeteers who made up the student group of 2015.

Starting off in drama before going on to stage manage opera she discovered puppets while teaching at Harrogate College of Art. She developed a reputation as a puppeteer while working as a residential social worker at Barnardo's. Her interest in special needs work quickly widened as her own performance work developed to include puppetry with music, music theatre, opera and dance.  

Work has included large-scale projects with the London Philharmonic, Britten Sinfonia, London Mozart Players, Royal Opera House, the Bournemouth Symphony and Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestras.

She is the author of many articles and the puppetry book 'I Am The Story' which is about the art of puppetry in education and therapy. Currently she is working on articles on form-generation in puppetry and was recently published in the Journal for Assistive Technologies. She has contributed to the journals of both UK and Australian UNIMA. 

While studying for an MA at Middlesex Polytechnic she was able to explore the aesthetics of puppetry and the specific teaching approaches most appropriate for puppetry which lead to her co-founding the London School of Puppetry with Ronnie Le Drew.

In order to develop as a researcher, in 2010 she won an award from the Arts and Humanities Research Council to spend two years at Royal Holloway College writing about the techniques of the body of the puppeteer to create movement in the puppet. She was looking at the way the work of Rudolf Laban can frame thinking about puppetry. In 2015 she started her PhD based on otome bunraku at Loughborough University.

She also performs her own work when there is time. Currently she is performing 'A History of Ms Demeanor', A black comedy parodying three women in our culture. The Virgin, The Maid, and the Good Time Girl are all represented by Ms Demeanor either as a puppet, or human actor throughout three pieces. She first appears in A Ms Demeanor as a supposed 18th century virgin who succumbs to gin and pregnancy. In  the 19th century Mistress of Maids dolls, manikins, and cutouts are incorporated, in an action involving lovers, infidelity, breakfast; and the final part Holiday in Babylon is set in the 21st century with only a soldier and war planes to accompany her giving birth to twins.