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Photo credit @ Alex Brenner

Interview: Recycling The Puppets

Puppeteer Eden Harbud on Zoe’s Peculiar Journey Through Time

We’re delighted to be chatting with puppeteer Eden Harbud who is currently performing in Zoe’s Peculiar Journey Through Time. This is a brand new production for people aged 6+ which ET recently reviewed at the Southbank Centre in London and will now run at the Polka Theatre in Wimbledon later in the year. We asked Eden about all things time travel and rubbish!

Hi Eden. Well first things first, can you tell us a bit about the story behind Zoe’s Peculiar Journey Through Time and how you came to be involved?

In the story (written by Jimmy Osborne, with Sue Buckmaster) our protagonist Zoe, played by the wonderful Shanez Pattni, is catapulted one hundred years into the future and experiences a peculiar journey of discovery. She meets three lovable characters who live on a mysterious island of plastic waste, and is set a challenge to be able to go back home. Through this she learns about the way the islanders, and the other creatures there, now live. I don’t want to give too much away, but essentially it’s a show with lovely uplifting messages about friendship and the environment for the next generation. 

As a puppeteer yourself you must have worked with a whole variety of puppets. What’s special about the ones in this production?

That’s true, I’ve worked with a fair range of different puppets including marionettes, shadow and bunraku puppets. The puppets in this production have been skilfully made from a wide variety of recycled materials, by the incredible puppet makers Naomi Oppenheim, Charlie Tymms & Rebekah Wild. As a performer I get the joy of working with these puppets in very different ways, from puppeteering the pelican collaboratively with all the performers to vocalising the character of the Spirit (a lip sync puppet that emerges from an unsuspecting huge pile of plastic) whilst also communicating through a mix of BSL and universal gesture with fellow puppeteer Teele Uustani. This production certainly has enough intricate puppetry to keep me on my toes, and there’s still wonderful details we’re discovering in front of our audiences.

Which one is your favourite?

I have to say, even though I love the Spirit very much and spend the most time with her, my favourite puppet might have to be the barracuda fish. He moves so well and is beautifully menacing. His slow flowing movement is always a joy to embody.

The show deals with themes of tackling pollution and environmental crisis. Is that something that your young audiences are on board with?

Absolutely. Our young audience are of course already aware of environmental matters. We’ve even had young audience members anticipating the next lines of the show because of that awareness! Their responses at the end of the show clearly tell us their passion on the issue.

How does time travelling fit in with ideas of environmental conservation for today?

It’s easy to look at our situation with hindsight and say “if only we can change the past”, however we are simply in the now. This show is an opportunity for us to look at the now as the past of our future (if you see what I mean!). And together, with care and strength and awareness, we do have the power to change that future. Hopefully the world will never see the version of the future we present – but it’s going to take some work to get us there.

The show is produced by the amazing Theatre-Rites, who are an award-winning children’s puppetry company. How have you found working with them?

It’s been wonderful working with Theatre-Rites. I feel really supported by them as a company. Not every theatre company appreciates the difficulty and nuance of puppetry. So it’s very affirming to work with a company that has over 25 years of puppetry experience behind them and understand the needs of puppeteers in the room. 

I also really admire that the company uses each process they go through to learn something new by collaborating with different creatives. As we’ve been working with creatives from the D/deaf community, including the brilliant Benedetta Zanetti, this process particularly has been a massive learning curve for a lot of us (certainly myself), and a chance to really improve our deaf awareness as individuals. As a theatre maker it’s been an invaluable experience to see how a theatre making process can be made more accessible.

Finally, if you could describe the show in three words what would they be?




Well, now we can’t wait to jump through time to see this fabulous show again! Thanks very much to Eden for taking the time to chat with us about it.

Zoe’s Peculiar Journey Through Time is aimed at ages 6+ and runs at the Polka Theatre in Wimbledon 29 September to 8 October. Further information and bookings can be found here.

About Mary Pollard

By her own admission Mary goes to the theatre far too much, and will watch just about anything. Her favourite musical is Matilda, which she has seen 16 times, but she’s also an Anthony Neilson and Shakespeare fan - go figure. She has a long history with Richmond Theatre, but is currently helping at Shakespeare's Globe as a steward and in the archive. She's also having fun being ET's specialist in children's theatre and puppetry, and being a Super Assessor for the Offies! Mary now insists on being called The Master having used the Covid pandemic to achieve an award winning MA in London's Theatre and Performance.