Creating Holding Achilles

Setting the scene
Co-set Designers Anna Cordingley and David Morton have designed a technically astounding and visually compelling set that will transport audiences into an artful, imaginative world.

An 8 metre wide dais (circular raised platform), a 2.4 metre gold and silver automated disc floating above the performers, able to move anywhere in a 3d space, and 5 pairs of 10-metre tall ladders form the framework for an epic set that shifts, shapes and marks the passing of time in the epic, mythical world in which Achilles and Patroclus’s bond is forged. 

Puppets and props
Holding Achilles features some signature puppet creatures, including Heracles, our hero bear puppet, as well as a variety of hand props and set design elements that highlight Dead Puppet Society’s unique and innovative approach to design-led theatre, combining timeless craftsmanship with new school technology.

The puppets and props you see on stage have all been designed and crafted at Dead Puppet Society’s Fabrication Workshop in Brisbane. Ultimately set against the violence of the Trojan war, audiences can expect to see weapons of war, including bows, arrows, spears and staffs, and Achilles’ shield of course.

Come behind the scenes to DPS HQ and see how we bring the puppets and props to life.

Discover more about the puppets, props and costumes

The bear
The hero puppet is Heracles the bear. We see Heracles grow from a cub to an adult as Achilles and Patroclus train in the glade with the Centaur Chiron. Adult Heracles is an oversized rod puppet operated by five performers. He’s made out of EVA foam and plywood with a rubber coating, a metallic paint finishing and his eyes will be made of cast resin. His head is made up of 44 pieces, each piece is individually heat sealed and shaped before being assembled by hand. Baby Heracles is a replica, one third of the size, his head is made up of 34 pieces.

Fire puppet 
During their time in the glade, the Centaur Chiron tells Achilles and Patroclus the story behind Helen of Troy’s marriage to Menelaus and sets the scene for the war that is to come. Told late one lazy night after training around a campfire, Chiron manipulates the flames to bring the myth to live. With a unique Dead Puppet Society twist, this fire is made up of 36 individual flames. Each flame is a piece of acrylic that has been laser-cut and laser-etched. Dead Puppet Society’s Technical Director Scott Barton has designed an innovative lighting system that operates each flame’s colour and texture individually making it responsive to the action on stage.

Achilles' shield
Achilles’ shield is a prop of great beauty and detail. The shield was prototyped in miniature, and once the desired shape was achieved, it was reverted to its flattened form to create a flat pattern. A historical image of Achilles’ shield, which was sourced from early translations of The Iliad, was digitally traced, then etched on the laser cutter and cut into flat form. It was then heat formed and heat sealed, rubber coated, and painted with two kinds of gold paint. Finally it has been hand detailed with silver markings.

The costumes for Holding Achilles are designed by nationally renowned designer Anna Cordingley. There are over 20 costumes, with many of the characters requiring different costumes to represent the passing of time as they age and evolve. The costumes have been designed to accommodate the daring aerial work and movement choreography, as well as to accommodate the movement required from performers operating the puppets and props. Imagine flowy streetwear, sneakers, linen, foiled leather, brass, gold, laser-cut foam, oxidised metal and a rich array of blues and smokey hues.

Dead Puppet Society’s Head of Fabrication Savannah Mojidi has been working closely with costume designer Anna Cordingley to bring her vision to life.

Anna Cordingley has designed the costumes for Holding Achilles with Dead Puppet Society’s ethos of combining timeless craftsmanship with cutting edge technology in mind. The main soldiers' looks feature laser-cut foam armour. Our Head of Fabrication used traditional pattern making to create the forms, then digitised the patterns, which are cut on our in-house laser cutter.

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