Portraits • Headshots • Plymouth, New Hampshire

Life’s Work, Part XXXV

Mark, Puppeteer

When I first began emailing around to find interesting subjects for this project in London, I was given the names of two puppeteers.  The email included an interesting warning: Sarah Wright and Mark Down are “Puppetry Royalty,” and you shouldn’t really expect to get them.  To my delight, they both kindly said yes.  Sarah was in the last post, Part XXXIV, in this series. 

Mark Down is one of the world’s leading puppeteers, and the artistic director of Blind Summit, a London-based, internationally touring producer of puppet-based theatre. You can find out more about him and his work on his website, here: www.blindsummit.com

“I love performance and particularly acting. I trained as an actor and I came across puppets by chance along the way. I had this idea to try and make puppets act. It’s such a strange problem because a puppet cannot really act. Acting is pretending to be someone else, and a puppet can’t do that because a puppet isn’t someone in the first place. Puppetry separates the actor into two parts: the puppeteer does the pretending, and the puppet does the action. A puppet can look like it’s acting. We can pretend that it is acting. But it can’t actually act. There’s a sort of separation of body and spirit. Making performances out of this has fascinated me for twenty years and continues to fascinate me, so I keep doing it for now. I don’t think I meant to do it for this long. I originally trained to be a doctor.”

Mark Down, puppeteer, London

Puppeteer Mark Down, squatting by a stool with a puppet
London-based puppeteer Mark Down, seated, holding a mask
Behind the scenes photo of photographer Maundy Mitchell working with puppeteer Mark Down at Espero Studios in London
Puppeteer Mark Down raising his eyebrows at a man he is holding
London-based puppeteer Mark Down, laughing at a mask he is holding

You can see Parts I-XXXIV of Life’s Work here: https://maundymitchell.com/lifes-work/