Joe collected Pelham Puppets and made up his own stories. Soon he was altering the heads and costumes of the Pelham Puppets to suit the play. Tools borrowed from his father’s workshop were blunted, fret saw blades broken and Plaster of Paris regularly blocked basins at the family home. He learnt a lot but not quite enough! After a stint on the teachers’ course at The Central School of Speech and Drama, he began helping at The Little Angel Theatre. Hindering more like, and he moved on to serve in many ways, a part-time apprenticeship with Barry Smith.
Barry created large rod puppet shows and was a great exponent of the Bunraku style of puppetry. So much so, in later years of his life (1984) Joe was fortunate enough to accompany him on a 6 week tour of Japan. Joe also worked a season for Jane Philips at The Caricature Theatre in Cardiff. Jane’s company worked on large stages and often performed ‘black light' productions. He soon learnt to have his hood on the right way around before walking out in front of the tabs!
On January 1st 1975 Joe arrived in Sydney and three weeks later began working for The Marionette Theatre of Australia. This was a large company by any standards with even bigger and impressive staging (all three and a half tons of it). Richard Bradshaw the famous shadow puppeteer had just been appointed artistic director and the emphasis changed from long string puppets to open staged large rod puppets. Again, many of the shows played big venues as well as smaller shows for schools touring.
In 1989 Joe returned to England. This next period of his life was coloured by the emergence of the HIV pandemic, and the loss of friends and colleagues hit him hard. He lost interest in puppetry and at first any creative ideas at all. Joe developed training skills and worked with the education team at The Garden Clinic in Slough. He stayed in this brilliant job for over 7 years. However, a project in Holland caught his attention and he went to Utrecht to work with British composer and theatre maker Helen Porter. Helen's ‘Counterparts Theatre’ had an impressive local following. Joe made and directed the puppet sequences for her version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ which included Marley’s ghost and Tiny Tim.
Joe was part of a fund-raising team at The Puppet Centre Trust and leapt at the chance to co-ordinate an evening of Toy Theatre. He had always wanted to see the legendary George Speaight perform. Peter Baldwin and Robert Poulter kindly offered their services to form a triple bill. ‘Titans of The Toy Theatre’ as they aptly called the evening was a huge revelation to me. Joe was captivated and entranced. He had never seen a professional Toy Theatre performance. George played ‘Sleeping Beauty’ with great charm and sincerity.
Peter Baldwin's ‘Corsican brothers' was so beautifully acted he forgot the stage was cardboard, and Robert Poulter‘s large scale production of ‘The Cask’ blew him away with his ‘single shot' moving panoramas and 3D effects. After a long puppetry drought in his life, his creative spark was re-ignited. Toy Theatre became his obsession. Within 18 months, his first production ‘Dracula', went to The Preetz Festival. Joe has performed regularly there ever since. ‘Cinderella’ followed in 1999 at BAC and he began touring museums and libraries and schools. Highlights included the V&A theatre museum, Museum of London and Thames Museum. As well as many regional Art Centres and many trips abroad.