In 1999 Collette Knowles co-founded Rough Magic Theatre with Leo Nolan of Midland Red. Together they built and toured Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” – a show combining live music, acting, rod and shadow puppets - across Europe. Collette followed this with a degree in Arts Education (Drama) at the prestigious Bretton Hall College in Wakefield where she started work on creating Rough Magic Theatre’s second two hander show “Alice in Wonderland”. Leo moved on to other projects and Collette became Artistic Director soon after her time at university. Collette updated “The Tempest” and performed it again with new performers at Cragrats Theatre in Holmfirth and Pantasaph in Wales.
After this Collette decided to concentrate on building new work and created her first shadow puppet suitcase theatre show “Jabberwocky!” which premiered at a Worcnet showcase event at the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes.The show proved to be a great success and Collette has performed it, and her second suitcase show “Edward Lear’s Nonsense”, in a huge variety of indoor and outdoor settings all over the country, including Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden, Leeds, Lancaster, Skipton, Cartmel, Blackpool, Castlefield Arena (Manchester) and Knaresborough Feva.
Tim Austin (a theatre Dramaturg and actor who also trained at Bretton Hall) joined the company in 2006 and helped Collette finish putting together the “Alice in Wonderland” show, which also proved a great success.The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party puppet costume (which Collette designed) also proved to be a great success as a spin-off one (or two) performer walkabout act. Collette, Tim and Eddie Knowles put together the “Fred Fettler’s “Pony 3000” – The Transport of the Future” show as part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad to complement 509 Arts’s “My Last Car” show in Bentham.
Pioneer Projects invited Rough Magic Theatre to make something for the celebration event surrounding 509 Arts show which became known as “My last CARnival” and they decided to make a pedal powered horse automaton out of waste/junk materials in a humorous take on what a world without oil might be like.This show was another huge success and went on to be shown at Lakes Alive’s “Mintfest” event in Kendal and Preston’s first “Lancashire Encounter” festival. In 2013 they were commissioned to create a show based on Peggy Rathman’s Caldecott Medal winning book “Officer Buckle & Gloria” by Bradford Safeguarding Children Board which was shown at East Riddlesden Hall and Bradford City Centre.
The fabulous Alsatian dog puppet which Collette created for this show went on to have a second life as “Wuffles” (part of the hapless crime fighting duo “Clueless and Wuffles”) for a brand new for Professor Panic’s Circus Tent in the Kidzfield at Glastonbury Festival. “Clueless & Wuffles – The Case of the Missing Jewels”. Other commissions have included creating puppets for Theatre Mill’s site-specific show “Sherlock Holmes and the Speckled Band” and creating a shadow puppet suitcase theatre for renowned puppeteer Nenagh Watson to use for her own wedding ceremony, (this commission also led to Collette running workshops for the puppetry degree students at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.)
New work includes “7 Songs of Love” (featuring shadow puppetry and traditional folk songs for rural touring), “The Secret Keeper” (a digital shadow puppetry project exploring new techniques combining film, 3-D shadows etc.) and “Al & Kai” a good news/educational web based puppet show for kids (think Sesame St., Rainbow, Blippi etc.) using puppets designed by Tim Austin and made by Joe Peek.
They also have a new Merch shop and new designs coming for their 25th Anniversary year in 2024!