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Eric Bramall

Eric Bramall’s talents were many but his genius was surely best revealed in his puppetry. In the 1940's Bramall pioneered a style of marionette presentation, Marionette Cabaret, a type of show in which the puppets are presented without stage, scenery or lighting apart from spotlights on the puppets themselves. The puppeteer is dressed in black so as to be as inconspicuous as possible and stands in full view. The puppets are on shorter strings than those worked from a bridge and perform on the floor, or rostrum, just in front of the manipulator who is standing on the same level.


This style of presentation has proved popular with several puppeteers : Eric Bramall was the first, in this country at least. It is a style which demands superb manipulation to be successful. Eric edited the Guild's first Yearbook in 1955 and organised the Guild's first out of town exhibition; in Liverpool. In 1958 he built The Harlequin Puppet Theatre in Colwyn Bay. This proved to be the first permanent purpose-built puppet theatre in the history of Britain. This was a wonderful success and continues to this day.  During these years Eric was mainly responsible for making the puppets and scenery for over forty productions. ranging from fairy tale and pantomime to Gilbert & Sullivan Comic Opera and Shakespeare's Macbeth.

In addition, during the same years he created the characters for some twenty-television series and clocked up over a thousand television programmes. Bramall scored another first: He conceived, organised and directed Britain's first International Puppet Festival in 1963. A weeklong puppet feast with representatives from 33 nations staying in Colwyn Bay and every available theatre, hall and auditorium filled with puppet shows and exhibitions. The town was decked with huge banners hanging from the lamp standards and there were performances by companies from Poland and France and America, from Switzerland, Germany and Belgium, from Canada and of course from Great Britain.

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And wonder of wonders, this festival was a financial success. As a manipulator of marionettes Eric had no equal. Vigorous and lively, or gentle and restrained, his puppets moved with confidence and certainty never slipped out of character. It all looked so easy in his hands, but in reality it was the result of many hours of practice. Radio and television journalist Roger Wilkes said that Eric was a life enhancer.

That's not a bad epitaph. Eric delighted in relating a story from his touring days when one of his dates was for a series of shows at the Notre Dame Convent in Leeds. One elderly nun was appointed to supply frequent tea and refreshments for the company during the shows. When the time came to leave, this gentle lady took Eric' s hand, and with a merry look in her eyes said in the sincerest tones, "There is a seat reserved for you in Heaven." Eric was taken aback. "Oh, I'm quite certain," she assured him. "You are bringing so much innocent happiness to so many thousands of people that it must be so!"

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