All this month, we are putting Charlie Vero-Martin in the spotlight. Charlie is a comedian. an improviser, and is even in the troupe Glitch where she improvises with puppets. Today we talk all about performing improv with puppets.
Recently the improv scene has been very different – how have you adapted to doing shows online?
I have to admit, I haven’t really. I’ve done a few when asked that I’ve really enjoyed such as Makers of Meaning with Helen Duff and Hoopla’s Make Off but otherwise taken a break. I have done some online improv courses though, such as Breaking & Entering and Impromptu Shakespeare, which have been great because it’s allowed me to connect with people around the world.
Who would be your dream guest to appear at one of your shows and why?
I’d love to perform with Keegan-Michael Key. I love listening to him talk about comedy and improv.
Tell us about the world of Glitch?
IT’S FLUFFY. We have around 20 “bunraku-style” (rods on feet and arms, performed on top of a table) muppet like monster puppets handmade by the director, Mike Hutcherson. They have no names or gender etc. We get a title from the audience and then the team (usually about 4 of us) perform a 40 min story with those puppets to live music.
How did you become part of the team?
I auditioned. I met Charlie Dinkin, who was part of the team at the time, while doing a comedy writing course when I first moved to London. She knew I’d done a lot of improv and encouraged me to apply.
How do you do rehearsals for improv when there are puppets involved?
It’s really not that different from regular improv rehearsals. We warm up without puppets. Sometimes we focus more on characters and voice exercises more than a regular group would as that’s a key part of bringing the puppets to life. Depending on who is present and how long they’ve been doing puppetry or improv for we’ll focus more on one more than the other. We’ve had some incredible puppeteers in the group, like Iestyn Evans who works with Henson, so sometimes we’ll drill movement and breathing as a group with a puppet. The last few rehearsals before lockdown were more about format and structure. A lot of the time we’ll just cycle through scenes focusing on particular techniques.
What is your favourite thing about being part of the team?
There’s such a range of talent: puppeteers, improvisers, actors, singers, artists. I’ve learned so much from this group.
We have around 20 “bunraku-style” (rods on feet and arms, performed on top of a table) muppet like monster puppets handmade by the director, Mike Hutcherson.Charlie Vero-Martin
Some of your favourite memories on stage with Glitch
I love when we do a show that could easily be between funny human improvisers but then we suddenly do something visually that is much more effective or could only work with puppets. Characters dying comes under this too, I’m afraid!
They say don’t work with animals or children – is there any similar situations with puppets?
Yes, the puppets are such divas. The blue bear guy is known for being a real dick. But also genuinely, flyering with puppets on the Royal Mile meant we attracted a lot of dogs and children who aren’t really our target audience…
Which is your favourite puppet and why?
Ah that’s hard! I do gravitate towards “the pink unicorn” who I’ve used in my solo shows and Mike has allowed me custody of. I’m also a fan of “the big purple guy”, which is a full glove puppet, and “the squirrel” who has an extra rod for its tail.
What is the one thing you have learnt about improv that you would not have learnt unless you did improv with puppets?
You really can be anything you want to be. As I said earlier, improv allows you to go beyond your “type-casting” and working with puppets has really helped me explore and embrace that. Anything is possible.
Want to see Charlie Vero-Martin live? You can here are dates for upcoming shows:
13 October – Rose & Crown, Kentish Town – Free – WIP
29 October – 31 October – Museum of Comedy
2 Nov – Aces & Eights (TBC)
7 Nov – Aces & Eights
9 Nov – Hoopla Impro – Charlie’s Comedy Cabaret
15 Nov – Hoopla Impro – Factually Inaccurate