Steve & Chris Clarke
Steve Clarke started making and performing marionettes for family and friends when he was about 9 years old and continued until he started National Service in 1956. The interest surfaced again after his marriage to Christine in 1960, when they joined the Guild. Steve left the RAF in 1965, and for several years concentrated on the family and home. It was after a few years into their second home that they were able to devote more time to puppets. Many holidays were spent attending Guild festivals, which were held throughout the UK.
This was a great opportunity to meet the top performers of the period. Later they performed themselves at these venues. It was a tremendous learning curve. The chance to become professional came after Christine's near fatal accident, when Steve was offered early retirement. As Chris improved, they expanded their shows to include glove, rod, and shadows - often all types in one production. Long periods were spent running a small theatre at intervals in Somerset, with Ted Bereford often taking over if they had to return home to fulfil bookings.
They had visions of their show sliding off into the depths, but thankfully all was well. Steve and Chris found you have to be prepared for anything when they arrived at one venue to perform to deaf children, intending to use a lot of music and live chat from the puppets in their show. Set up and ready to go, they learned that the room’s audio loop was not working! With a sign language interpreter to one side, they progressed at a slightly slower speed through the performance. How it must have seemed they didn’t really know, but everyone said they enjoyed it.
Throughout their time spent with puppets, one of the items of great interest to Steve as a maker, has been trick marionettes, the earliest being the disjointing skeleton.
In 2015, they moved to their present home in Shropshire and have given shows there, as well as repairing and converting puppets, although they haven't performed for a few years. Some shows and venues stand out, such as the one for a Guild member held on an island in the river Thames with access only by boat! What does the future hold? They feel there will be many changes for everyone.