Animated Objects

26 07 2022

Lee & Dawn

Five-metre-tall puppet Aura travels through Crawley seeking welcome this Summer

Creative Crawley’s summer programme Enliven: You’re Welcome celebrating Crawley New Town’s 75th anniversary finishes with Aura’s arrival

Brought to life by Animated Objects Theatre Company, Aura’s travels are inspired by Homer’s the Odyssey

Aura’s Odyssey will start at Gatwick Airport

A series of creative projects with local residents will take place in the build up to her arrival

@CreativeCrawley and @CrawleyTCBID | #EnlivenCrawley |

Lee and Dawn, Animated Objects

What is it about the Odyssey that inspired this particular puppet?

The epic stories of Homer’s Iliad, and The Odyssey are set in a time of war, but both challenge the audience to examine the nature of humankind and of war itself. There are many points in the narrative where characters set aside the heroic expectations placed upon them and reflect on their own mortality and the repercussions of their deeds.

We wanted to examine this further in our retelling of these ancient tales; by showing other perspectives on the actions of

the main protagonists. How can characters such as Odysseus and Achilles still be referred to as heroes when they are part of an invading army that brings destruction to Troy? What happened to the civilians living there during the ten years of the Trojan Wars?

This was the seed for the creation of Aura in our version of the narrative. Her story is that of a teenager displaced by conflict; forced to leave her homeland in search of safety, and her appearance in our reimagined version of Homer’s classic prompts Odysseus himself to utter the words ‘We men are wretched things.

She was one of the very first confirmed elements of The Odyssey: An Epic Adventure on The Yorkshire Coast that the creative team were keen to include, right the way back in 2017 when we embarked on this remarkable journey. She has been welcomed by audiences along The Yorkshire Coast upon her first washing up on their shores, and we look forward to taking her on this new adventure to meet new people and experiences in Crawley.

There seems to be a bit of enthusiasm for large puppets at the moment! What do you think allows them to retain their popularity across the centuries?

Large puppets in outdoor settings are certainly enjoying more time in the spotlight in recent years, and rightly so! There’s some truly amazing work out there. This popularity is partly down to the amazing work by well established companies across the world, such as Royal de Luxe for example, but social media also plays a huge role in the upsurge of this kind of work.

Many smaller companies including ourselves have been evolving the tradition of large scale puppets for decades, that now reach a much wider audience online as they offer an impressive visual spectacle when set alongside the human world. This unique interaction between audience and large-scale

characters is the key to their enduring popularity. In our experience, audiences often feel like children in the presence of large puppets; they open themselves up to play; they suspend their disbelief and enter into the world of the fantastical for a few moments - and this is even more magical if it happens on the streets of their home town.

Does Aura's name have any particular meaning?

Yes. We wanted a name that hearkens back to the Ancient Greek, and had meaning relevant to her first appearances on the coast. It means ‘a fresh sea breeze’.

How do you expect the audience - should we call it a crowd - in Crawley to respond?

We hope they’ll come along to meet her with open minds and hearts. It’s always great to see people’s reactions to a large puppet in settings that they may pass by every day, as it places a fresh perspective on the familiar.

The reactions in Yorkshire were often incredibly moving. We always schedule in times during walkabouts for people to be able to meet Aura when she’s seated, so they can be much closer than when she’s walking. Whether people approach her for a selfie, or through curiosity to see how she’s made there’s always a conversation; an interaction. And that is one of the real pleasures of our work.

What is the importance of the gifts that she will receive?

We believe there are a number of gifts being prepared for Aura’s visit, which is very exciting, as they represent the people of Crawley and many of the hopes, dreams and aspirations of those involved. They are personal to the makers, and by sharing them with Aura they are also sharing part of themselves; they have given their time; their thoughts and their passion for creation in the process of making gifts to welcome a stranger. Nothing could be more important than that.

by Gareth K Vile

Aura’s Odyssey is being brought to Crawley by Animated Objects Theatre Company. presented by Creative Crawley. Funded by Crawley Town Centre Business Improvement District, Arts Council England and Crawley Borough Council