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Puppetry, placements and performance: getting ready for a Tudor treasure hunt

by Chloe Phillips-Bartlett, student placement

“Perhaps Fulham Palace seems like an odd to location to have a drama student on placement, yet every day I find new ways to use and develop my skills. Since I began here, I have been working on creating a character to perform as part of Fulham Palace’s Museums At Night: Tudor Treasure Hunt, on the Friday 26 October.

Every drama student is familiar with the process of creating characters from scratch, but I have never developed a character in quite the same way as I have here. I began by researching the history of the Palace, sorting through the site’s wealth of history, until I had shortlisted a variety of stories from the Tudor Palace. For example, Catherine of Aragon (an empowered woman, unfortunately only remembered as Henry VIII’s first wife) lived at the Palace for some time; Protestants had their ‘loyalties tested’ (read: ‘were tortured’) by ‘Bloody’ Bishop Bonner in the great hall; and Bishop Ridley was burnt at the stake. With so much history to investigate, the research process was a rabbit hole, down which I would get lost for hours.

Margaret Bonner (Bishop Bonner’s sister) piqued my interest: this 16th century woman was essentially unrecorded, although we know she lived here under both a Catholic and a Protestant Bishop. As a dramatist, I was eager to uncover her character, and explore some of the things she would have seen during the Reformation period at the Palace.

Once certain of the character, I considered captivating ways to present her story and decided that puppetry would be the perfect way to do this. I love that even adults are mesmerised by inanimate objects manipulated into life, and having recently attended the Natural History Museum’s foray into puppetry (The Wider Earth), it seemed puppetry could be a fascinating medium to reveal the secrets Margaret saw.”

For Museums at Night October 2018, Margaret Bonner will come to life. Stepping out from her blurry background, she will recount the visit of the infamous sorcerer Dr. John Dee, illustrated by a hand-crafted wooden puppet.

Join us for this re-imagining of Tudor life at Fulham Palace, where you will meet Tudor characters; make a personalised, authentic Tudor bath-bomb; watch live performances; and follow cryptic clues around the Palace to find stolen treasure!