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Master of The Marionettes: The Life and Work of Waldo Lanchester

Master of The Marionettes: The Life and Work of Waldo Lanchester


Steve Cockayne has written a delightfully vivid and wide-ranging book about the 50 years that Waldo and Muriel Lanchester dedicated to the puppet theatre.  In 13 chapters he examines the influences that moulded them, including the Arts & Crafts Movement, the Victorian puppetry tradition and the early encounters with socialism. 


We also meet some of the characters of the Lanchester's early life including the inventor John Logie Baird, the potter Bernard Leech, the weaver Luther Hooper, puppeteer H.W.Whanslaw, playwright George Bernard Shaw and Waldo's famous sister and actress, Elsa Lanchester.  In the concluding chapter, the author assesses the influence of their marionette theatre of the puppeteers of today including contributions from some of the outstanding practitioners of the art.  Contemporary puppeteers will find many echoes of the chain of efforts undertaken by the Lanchester's which carry over into the present. 


There are the cross-artform influences; the touring to venues across the length and breadth of the UK; the challenges of collaboration with other artists and puppeteers; the opening of a dedicated space and permanent theatre; the gathering and preservation of collection materials and their gradual dispersal; and the fickleness of funders and sponsors in their approaching old age.  The trajectory of the Lanchester's raises the seminal question of legacy and the need for a secure infrastructure for the puppet theatre as an art form in its own right. 


The book is also a fully illustrated biography with original photographs, posters and handbills, many of which are derived from the hitherto unpublished visual material from the Douglas Fisher Archive. Steve Cockayne has also added a comprehensive bibliography, index and list of sources.


This book has been published by Dr Malcolm Knight of The Scottish Mask & Puppet Centre with unique artwork and design by puppeteer Shane Connolly of Sokobauno Theatre.  354 pages. 146 b/w photos. 9 colour photos.  ISBN: 0-9540126-2-3. 

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