On the Ride again (5): That’s a WRAP!

Recording a book trailer in a single day was always ambitious.

Recording a book trailer in a single day when it rains solidly for about eight hours – now that might be a problem.

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I picked up film guru Ross in the morning, and hopefully we headed off north to Strathpeffer – not only a lovely Victorian-looking place, but crucially, with a drier forecast. Alas, not with much luck. The buildings were grand, right enough, but not close enough together to create the impression of 1889 Inverness. On top of that, my previously willing talent had become a little self-conscious about walking and running around in the Victorian gear we’d borrowed from the theatre. We did many u-turns, reversed our way out of corners, drove along this street and that, before finally admitting the game was a bogey. Back to Inverness we went without a single shot in the can.

To our dismay, it still rained enthusiastically in my home town and the setting of the book’s opening chapters. Time for a reboot. The talent (my son) got changed into less conspicuous gear and we headed out for lunch. Amazing what a bowl of soup can do for the dejected spirit – by the time we left for the museum at 2pm, the whole thing seemed tight, but almost possible again. We arrived early. The talent got changed and emerged a little reluctantly into the tourist-path between Inverness Castle and the town. Twenty minutes of scrambling up castle hill through long grass in boots way too big for him yielded our first usable footage. Ross the camera guru was beginning to smile.

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And after darkening the shot

Into the museum for our appointment with the Victorian Punch and Judy puppets it was. I felt a Tony Blair quote coming on (oh dear!): I feel the hand up history upon my shoulder…

Handling and filming the very puppets with which the Morrison family had entertained Highland audiences for over a hundred years (from Victorian times), now that’s a privilege you don’t get every day. I had a fan-girl moment. I apologise for the completely unhinged grin in this picture. I have no excuse, I was carried away by the moment.

Barbara Punch puppet pic
The Museum’s Mr Punch puppet

We emerged, feeling the need to celebrate with hot chocolate and churros. That done, we took a trip to my house which wasn’t far away: We needed my main character to witness a huge fire from the top of a tree.

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The talent, crouching in the fir tree in our garden, ready to get into character… He doesn’t look very terrified to me.

My bright idea of playing flames footage on a laptop and holding it in front of his face was only partially successful. We even tried to film this in our tiny bathroom, the only room which we could black out completely. The talent was trying to look terrified, with me holding the laptop screen above his head so the flames would dance on his face, Ross crouching below to film and daughter 2 holding a branch of fir tree and waving it in the actor’s face as if moving with a breeze. After all that effort, Ross scrutinised the screen: ‘No – too dark.’ We tried again outside and in the kitchen. It would have to do. On to daughter 2’s dancing feet, and some lovely landscape shots of Loch Ness.

The rain had cleared up by then, leaving behind a moody layer of cloud and mist. Oh well. Some fiddle-scraping in a flowery field might give the summery impression we were after. Worth a try, anyway. As evening fell and the town emptied, the talent became a little more relaxed, and we were able to get some running shots in the old town, up and down the tiny patch of cobbles we had found in a lane and over an old Victorian footbridge. Good enough, Ross reckoned, and that was good enough for me. With the husband home from work and our stomachs full of pizzas, we headed for our final stop. What are the chances – the beautiful staircase in Eden Court’s Bishop Palace, normally accessible round the clock, was being used for a wedding! Noooo! I needed a nice old stair for my murder victim!

And no, we could not return the next day – we had today, and only today, before Ross-with-the-camera was off to Glasgow again!

The husband, reluctantly supportive, seemed relieved. ‘Oh well,’ he sighed, grinning out his relief and steering towards home.

‘No wait. One more try!’ I had heard of the beautiful staircase in the Royal Highland Hotel, although I had never seen it. ‘You’ll never get permission at this short notice,’ the husband argued, but he must have felt confident he was right – he pulled in by the station and I tried my charm offensive with the receptionist. I need’t have worried. No problem at all, apparently. Film away!

Image result for Royal Highland Hotel Inverness staircase

My husband’s grin quickly turned to a grimace when I told him that yes, I expected him to lie down, upside down, on a staircase in a tourist-crowded hotel lobby on a Friday night, and play dead. I still can’t help laughing pretty hysterically when I look back on it! The only thing still missing was a little footage of an old clock which Ross and I sneaked in on the way home just after 11 pm. A long, long day. Will it work? Who knows.

But for now, that’s a wrap!

On THE RIDE again (4): If you don’t ask, you don’t get

I am learning.

Learning more, learning faster, learning better. I am engulfed in the second lot of edits with Punch, rephrasing, rewording and re-thinking the manuscript after six weeks away. Unlike a lot of my writer friends, I actually enjoy this process more and more. It reassures me that someone else (in this case Cranachan editor Anne Glennie) has cast a beady eye over my words. I don’t mind being told that I overuse ‘just’ and ‘lapping’ and and ‘stumbling’ – I am genuinely grateful that somebody would point this out before I can publicly disgrace myself!

And multi-tasking with the best of them, I am also turning my attention to the Punch book trailer. I loved making the book trailer for Fir for Luck (find it here if you haven’t seen it!). LOVED it!

Maybe it is the varied nature of it: a small-scale project. Writing a screen-play for a mere minute of Youtube output, sourcing props and costumes and music, making the whole thing work. I absolutely adore the whole process.

Like last time, I approached family friend Ross with my request. I can sort of film and sort of edit, but he can do both, without the ‘sort of’ – and he does it really, really well. Sadly, I can’t afford a king’s ransom, but he is going out with my niece now, so asking him to do the trailer for a small fee became easier :). ‘Sure’, he said, ‘I’ll happily do that if you can produce it!’

I had never thought of my all-rounding as ‘producing’ before, but if that’s what he wants to call it…

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The Museum’s Punch and Judy are unlikely to be in such perfect condition as these.

I dived deep into the costume cupboard to find vaguely Victorian stuff for my 12-year-old to wear as he sprints across old bridges and over cobbled stones. And, while there was some running in the trailer script, we also needed at least a little bit of puppetry, especially given the title of the novel.  I hunted for wooden Punch and Judy puppets on Ebay (with only limited success). I asked around and eventually succeeded in borrowing a giant-sized Punch puppet head from my research expert. Would it do? Not sure – as it had to be a functioning puppet… I reached for the sewing machine. But hang on, I had seen some images of actual Victorian puppets in my research, credited to Inverness Museum. I wonder…

Worth a go, don’t you think?

I popped along to the museum in my Sunday best, only to find that the person I needed to impress wasn’t actually there. I politely asked for her email address and sent my begging letter that night.

puppet borrow

The wonderful reply came back today: Not only will they allow us to film in the Museum this Friday, but they will bring the puppets up from their depot an hour south of here especially! I feel like dancing. Mr Punch may only make a brief appearance in the trailer, but I’m sure for me he’ll be the star of the show!

See ya! I’m off to buy some stripy fabric to use in the shots.

Lesson learned:

Just ask.




Original Pirate Puppetry – Feel Free to Use

No copyright issue with this one! Parents, Librarians, Teachers, Puppeteers – feel free to use!

Capt’n Stragglybeard’s Apprentice

by Barbara Henderson

Only two characters, so ideal for a single puppeteer to perform.

You will need:

  • A pirate puppet ideally with beard/hook
  • A boy (or girl) puppet – just adapt the script if female
  • Some pirate music (lots on Youtube)


  •  2 fruit nets, one of them ripped.
  • A piece of white cloth
  • A chopstick and string to make mini mop
  • A piece of paper as job list
  • Socks/a few sprouts
  • Hot water bottle
  • Paper tissue
  • Bubbles/Air freshener (optional)


Pirate-type Music – fades out as CURTAIN OPENS to Capt’s Stragglybeard’s (CS) shouting.

CS: That’s it! You’re useless. Worse than useless – ye’re a landlubber! Off ma ship, or I’ll make ye walk the plank!

Boy: Arh-harr, but Capt’n… please! Please give me one more chance – I’ll prove to you I can truly be a pirate! Aharr!

CS: Don’t make me laugh! Ye can’t shoot, and ye can’t burgle; ye can’t drink rum without fainting and ye can’t sail. Lads! Come ‘here and let’s show this ‘ere landlubber the sharks! From the inside!

Boy shivers in fear. Both puppets wait. No-one is coming.

Boy: Erm, Capt’n Stragglybeard, Sir?

CS: (ignores him) LADS! Where’s ma pirate crew!

Boy: (taps him on the shoulder) Erm, Capt’n Stragglybeard, Sir – I think you scared them all away.

CS: (hesitates) What?

Boy: They abandoned ship…

CS: WHAT!!!????

Boy: Look over there, sailing towards the sun on the raft? That’s them. You’re scarier than the sea, more revolting than the rat poo in the ship’s hold, scrappier than the skeletons in the cabin cupboard… (Realises what he has said and ducks, but Capt’n S. is very pleased)

CS: (Touched) Do you really think so? (Remembers what went before and shouts) Don’t ye flatter me, ye landlubber, ye water rat, ye sloppy scallop! But as ye’re clearly intelligent, I might give you ONE MORE CHANCE! One, do ye hear? Take this! These ‘ere be the pirate jobs that need a-doing! (Hands boy the list)

Boy: Aharr, Captain Stragglybeard. Aye aye!

CS: No more mistakes. Ye can’t be half-hearted as a pirate. Ye’ve gotta be scary and hairy and sweary. Now, would ye kindly fetch me ma hot water bottle – even a pirate needs his naps. Thank you very much.

Boy: AYE AYE Capt’n Stragglybeard! (Capt’n leaves with hot water bottle, yawning)

Boy (to audience, shakes his head): Well, kids. He thinks he’s so tough and brave. But look at this mess – the ship is covered in rotten cabbages (could throw out brussels sprouts to audience)  and stinky socks (throws out socks). Yuk, look! Even a used hanky (paint disgusting yellow and green onto a clean tissue for the yuk effect – throws out). This ship needs cleaning. The Capt’n will love it! Think how pleased he’ll be!

(Hopefully audience will protest – engage with this!)

Boy: This deck need a-scrubbing: Sacred Seagull Slime! It’s sickening! (Mops. A mini-mop is easily made with string loops and a chopstick. Blowing bubbles from behind the booth/stage can be lovely and unexpected for the audience, as can be spraying air freshener to make it smell clean!)

CS: (snores off-stage)

Boy: The Captain will be sooo pleased. What next! (looks around again) Aharr. (Produces damaged rigging made from fruit netting) That ripped rigging needs a-fixing! It’s got more splits and slashes and gashes than….than I don’t know what ! What I do know is this – (pretends to knot, wriggling netting up and down) with a little knotting and stretching and setting and stitching; it’s as good as new. Aharr! (Holds up perfect version of fruit net).

CS: (continues to snore off-stage)

Boy: And before I look at that list (throw list behind him), I should probably take a look at the sails, too. Right – here they are (any bit of white cloth will do for this). Och, they’re the wrong shape altogether, and they should be up there, hanging with the rest of them. (Looks up, sighs and produces scissors) No-one here but me to sort it all out! Just you wait – I’ll be the best pirate apprentice the Capt’n has ever had! (Cuts cloth)

(Audience might protest. Encourage!)

CS: (Snores, snorts, coughs, splutters off-stage): Hmm where am I? Who am I? What am I… (wakes up properly) Aharr, me hearties! Ah’m a PIRATE CAPTAIN!

Boy: Oh no! (panics) I’ve done all these jobs, and I never once looked at the list from the Capt’n! He’s going to toss me to the sharks for definite. Where’s the list? (Runs around frantically) Tell me, kids, please! Where is it? I’ve gotta find…

CS: (appears, waving the jobs list the apprentice dropped) Looking for this?

Boy: (Shrinks away and quivers): Ahem, yes Capt’n Stragglybeard, Sir.

CS: Let’s see: Task number one: scrub the filthy smelly slimy deck. (Checks the deck while the boy looks surprised) Not too bad – for a landlubber!

Boy: Erm, I tried my hardest…

CS: SILENCE! Next: fix the rigging. (Picks up the intact netting. Surprised) Not too bad, lad!

Boy: (Equally surprised) Yes, that was quite hard to do, if you don’t mind me saying so, Sir.


Boy: (Eager) Fix the sails?

CS: NO! The sails are fine, ye flea-festering fish food… (points at list in his hand) … No, task number three is: get rid of the hideous tablecloth my grandma sent me. (Faces the audience) Did he do that?

Boy: (Quickly produces the cloth he cut up earlier) Shh, kids, you won’t say anything, will ye? Pirate promise?

(Throws cloth overboard. Super-effective with a splash SFX if you can get it!)

 I did indeed, Capt’n! Oh yes!

CS: Then ye may be my pirate apprentice! Well done, ma boy! Aharr.  Give it a pirate High-hook!

Boy: (Looks at Captain’s hook and hesitates) Erm …

CS: Alright, ma heartie – a high five then (uses other hand)! Let’s celebrate with some rum!

Boy: Rum? (sways and collapses over side of booth/stage in shock as Capt’n drinks and pirate music FADES IN).



Free Puppet Script: Pirates

Sorry, guys:

I did promise you some more puppetry, right? And I adapted an awesome picture book , but a kind friend messaged me to say that I was probably on shaky ground, copy-right wise. So I took it down.

Looks like I’m going to write an original play about pirates and post it here – no worries, that can be done.

Watch this space!




Christmas Puppetry Script

As promised, here is a Christmas Puppetry Script, loosely based on the Hansel and Gretel Fairytale and devised by the puppetry club in the school I teach at. I wrote the script based on pupils’ rough ideas.

Characters (entirely dictated by what puppets were available to us – feel free to adapt!):


  • Mum
  • Dad
  • Hansel
  • Gretel
  • Evil Magician
  • Dragon
  • Horse
  • Actor/Narrator(s)

 Hansel, Gretel and the Dragon



Scene 1 Living Room

Mum:             It’ll be a meagre Christmas, husband

Dad:               Yes, we are poor. If only we had a work horse to farm the land! But our children are used to it, wife. Let’s call them.

Mum:              Hansel! Gretel! Wake up! It’s Christmas morning!!!

Dad:               And there are presents!

Hansel:          Presents? I’m coming, I’m coming (shakes sister) Come on, Gretel! Actual presents? This is going to be the best day ever!!

They arrive in living room.

Mum:              Happy Christmas, Children. Now, you know how it works.

Dad:               Yes. One at a time, so that the joy lasts longer. Unwrap yours first, Gretel!

Actor/narrator 1 steps forward and unwraps small insignificant present, designed to be useful.

Gretel:            That’s wonderful! A comb, just for me! Thank you.

Dad :              And how about you, Hansel – open your present.

Actor/narrator 2 steps forward and unwraps Hansel’s present.

Hansel:          That is fantastic! A spoon all of my own. Thank you!

Mum:              But there is one more present here. It’s…

Dad:               It’s for both of you.

Hansel:          WOW. For both of us?

Gretel:            WOW. For both of us?

Together:      What is it?

Mum:              Why don’t you open it?

Actor/Narrator 1 steps forward, unwraps book:        It was a book. But not an ordinary book, no. It was beautiful. Colourful. Fascinating. Mesmerising. And, as they were about to find out…

Gretel:            Let’s open it.

Hansel:          Look at that first page. It’s a wintery wood. Hang on, what’s happening?

Both scream

Actor/Narrator 1: …MAGIC.

Lights out.


Scene 2: Forest   A sweetie trail leads through the audience to the gingerbread house

Lights up

Hansel:          Oh, help. Gretel! Where are we?

Gretel:            Looks like  some sort of forest.

Hansel: (shivering) Feels like some sort of forest. It’s so cold!

Gretel:            It’s the book! It took us here. And now…Now we don’t have any way of getting back! (sinks down and cries)

Hansel:          Look, there’s no use in just sitting here. We’ll freeze to death. We need to find shelter!

Gretel:            Oh, shelter, that’s right (sarcastic)  – why didn’t I think of that?

Hansel:          Ahem, Gretel. (Hansel looks at sweetie in sweetie trail)

Gretel:            If only there was a signpost here, that would be wonderful. Something to show us the way to a nice warm house. Somewhere safe…

Hansel:          Gretel, look!

Gretel:            But instead we are here, with nothing but snow and snow and trees and trees and..

Hansel:          Sweeties!

Gretel:            Sweeties?

Hansel:          Yes! Look, it’s a trail, don’t you see?

Gretel:            (steps back). I suppose.

Hansel:          And it’s leading us somewhere. I just know it! (starts following trail) Come on!

Gretel hesitates.

Hansel:          Unless you’ve got a better plan?

Gretel:            (sighs and follows). I have a bad feeling about this.

Both puppets follow the sweetie trail through the audience as narrator is speaking

Actor 1:         And so the two children found themselves in the middle of the dark wood, following the trail of shiny sweet wrappers reflected in the moonlight  it wasn’t long before they could see a magnificent gingerbread house in a clearing some way ahead.

(House placed on stage, lights on it)

Actor 2:         The wind blew, the frost nibbled at their toes and their stomachs roared in harmony with the storm. Do you think they hesitated, even for a second? Of course they didn’t. They went straight inside.

But nothing was going to prepare them for what they saw in the gingerbread house!                                                   Lights down


Scene 3 In the Gingerbread House        

Lights up

Magician:      Welcome! Welcome! Have you come to find shelter here like so many other weary travellers?

Hansel:          Yes! Oh, it’s so terribly cold out there, and we’re so horribly hungry!

Gretel:            Wait: Are you a…

Magician:      A wizard? A magician? A wielder of magic? Yes, dear girl, I am all of those things, and more! But let’s not waste precious time talking of me. Go, children. Eat! Satisfy your hunger, and I will get your beds ready. You can stay (quietly) as long as I like.

Hansel and Gretel eat.

Magician:      (to the audience) Just as well the gingerbread contains a sleeping potion. That way it’ll be easy to imprison these two – until it’s time to feed them to my terrible DRAGON! Mwhahahaa!

Hansel:          I feel so tired all of a sudden!

Gretel:            I can barely keep my eyes open.

Magician:      Then why fight it? The house is warm and the forest is cold and stormy. Make yourselves comfortable. I’ll keep watch.

Hansel:          Will you really? That’s so kind of you, Sir…. Chrrrrrrr (snores)

Gretel:            I’ll just have a tiny, teeney little nap for a minute… or chrrrrr (collapses)

Magician:      Haha! This is a feast for my terrible dragon! Two chunky, juicy children should keep him going for most of the winter! Now, there’s work to do. Better get busy before my Dragon wakes!

Lights out, spot on narrator.

Actor 1:         Using his terrible powers, the evil magician conjured prison bars around the sleeping children. They didn’t hear the clanging of metal, or the distant snores of the dragon. They didn’t even feel themselves transported to the damp, dark cave beneath the gingerbread house. Their sleep was deep and magical. Until…

Actor 2:         Until they were woken by the most terrifying sound of all. A hungry dragon’s yawn!


Scene 4: Dragon’s Cave

Lights up: Dragon yawns in the corner.

Dragon:         Ohhhhhh, what a lovely dream. I dreamed that dinner came to me from another world: plump, juicy, stringy children, a feast fit for a dragon king. But I’ll probably have to hunt bats and rabbits again instead. That wizard never gets me anything proper to eat!

Hansel and Gretel make sleeping noises

Dragon:         Wait – what? Is that…Can I believe my eyes? Plump, juicy, stringy children? Just waiting for me to eat them? Oh, lovely lovely lovely wizard – I’ll never bad-mouth him again!

Gretel:            (waking) Hey – less of the ‘plump’!

Hansel:          (waking) And I’m sure we’re not stringy either.

Both:              (Properly awake) AAAARGHHHH! A Dragon!

Dragon:         Good morning, breakfast. How are you this fine day?

Hansel:          (shaking) I have been better, thanks.

Gretel:            Both of us are feeling particularly disgusting today. Very distasteful. Oh yes.

Dragon:         Don’t worry. I’m not fussy with my food.

Hansel:          We’re very disappointed to hear it!

Gretel:            Hansel: I have an idea! (to Dragon): Oh great Dragon – I wonder why you would fill your stomach with children and rabbits and bats, when in our world, the food is so much better. In fact, in our world it’s Christmas day! That means…

Hansel:          Oh yes: Turkey and stuffing and jelly and mince pies…

Dragon:         (interested) What are these things?

Hansel:          Oh, the best food imaginable for the discerning Dragon. But if you’d rather just have a couple of tough old kids, well, your choice.

Dragon:         Wait. My mouth is watering just hearing you talk of it. Stuffing, you say? Mice pies?

Gretel:            Mince pies. A delicacy! And our world is full of them. If only we could get back. (cries)

Dragon:         The wizard goes to the world of children sometimes. He places his magic books in bookshops

Hansel:          So that new victims will be lured to his lair. Like us! Mean Magician!

Gretel:            Wicked wizard!

Dragon:         Monstrous master! But he is not the only one who can do magic. I’ve hear him recite the spell. There’s no time to lose.

Magician appears, mug in hand.           

Magician:      No time to lose for what? I was just going to drink my breakfast brew before feeding you, my faithful dragon.

Gretel:            (whispering) I still have some of the sleepy gingerbread in my pocket. Now or never!

Actor 2:         Gretel stepped up to the bars, and stretching her hand through, crumbled the last of the gingerbread into the wizard’s brew.

Wizard:          I feel a bit… (collapses)

Actor:             And the dragon melted the prison bars away with a breath of fiery flame

(SFX/ orange light)

Dragon:         Children, hold on to my scaly hide. That way, we can fly together, from this world into yours. (They fly off around room/music/ scene change to living room again)

Snowy forest, Christmas Town

I will wear of both the crown

Travel through the realms of time

Until town bells I hear chime

Travel through the magic storm

Until I take another form

Hansel:          You’re a horse!

Horse:           Dragons don’t exist in your world! Don’t you know anything?

Scene 5: Living Room

They land on living room floor.

Mother:          Where have you been? You were there, and then you were not, and now – what is this horse doing in our living room?

Father:           A horse is just what we needed – to farm the land. We may not be so poor if we have a horse. How did you get it?

Gretel:            Ahem,… we sort of swapped it for the book.

Hansel:          Yes, turns out we didn’t like it so much after all. Sorry.

Mum:              Enough of all the questions. Who’d like a mince pie? (all stay still, but horse raises a hoof)

Actor 1:         And so it came to pass that Gretel and Hansel’s family had the best Christmas they had ever had. A new friend, a strong and willing work horse – as long as there was a steady supply of mince pies.

Actor 2:         And the wizard? Well he still travels to our world and places his magic books in bookshops for children to find. So, if you open a book you get for Christmas this year; make sure you hold on extra tight to your seat.

Actor 1:         Oh, yes – and I nearly forgot: And have a very merry Christmas!

All puppets: (wave and speak together) Yes, a very merry Christmas to you all!

Christmas Music and bowing. Riotous applause!

So there you have it!

Have fun creating your own! We are going to perform this for a couple of classes of six-year-olds in December. A lot to do before then…!