Furry monster back for second season
Mt Moehau's friendly, furry monster is back for a second season of The Moe Show and this time he's got some new friends. James Croot caught up with the female performer of fairy Fern - Sarah Thomson.
How did you get involved in The Moe Show and what attracted you to the project?
I was first introduced to Moe creator/producer/performer Jeremy Dillon through a mutual friend who knew we had similar interests. I was aware of Jeremy's work and thought working with puppets sounded pretty fantastic.
Describe the character of Fern for me. Did you have much say in Fern's look? How did you find her voice?
Fern is energetic, precocious and although she can get a little stroppy with him at times, she just adores her best friend Moe. Fern's aesthetic was designed by Jeremy in collaboration with master puppet builder Pasha Romanowski. Once Fern arrived, fully formed, and we began to experiment with how she might move and interact with her surroundings, her voice came pretty naturally.
How did this differ from working on the Power Rangers franchise or on Shortland St? What different challenges does this pose to those projects?
The contexts of performance control are quite different. Being, for example, a pizza nerd [on Power Rangers] or a nurse-cop [on Shortland Street] requires pretty similar technical control in terms of walking, talking, not falling over and remembering not to wipe your nose/make-up on things. Performing with Fern can be a little bit like attempting to do all of the above whilst simultaneously patting your head and rubbing your belly. But, that said, challenges are the most fun.
How did you get into puppetry? Who were your inspirations?
As a young child my surrogate babysitter was a selection of lovingly recorded and edited VHS tapes of The Muppet Show. I can probably still recite more episodes than I'd care to admit. The tone, pop-culture nods and humour allowed to pass on that show are testament not only to the ability of adults and children to enjoy the same things but also that condescension and talking down to children is far from a necessary evil. So, it won't really come as any surprise that my idols are: Henson, for sticking to his guns regarding content and delivery; and Frank Oz, for his ceaseless perfection in character creation and performance.
What's your favourite puppet/muppet and why?
Aw, man. One? Rowlf, probably. Because he's an everyman with a taste for truly terrible puns. Or ...any member of Dr. Teeth & the Electric Mayhem. Or Statler & Waldorf. Or Fozzie. Argh.
Favourite letter of the alphabet and why?
W. Because it had the gall to get greedy with the syllables.
How long does it take to film an episode?
Like a lot of television, we shoot out of order to meet location and studio needs. An episode can take as little as one day's worth of time to shoot, but may take longer to assemble from spaced out shooting days.
What puppetry advances have there been to ensure you don't have a repeat of the infamous Thingee's eyeball incident?
I don't know about advances per se, as puppets have been pretty classy for a lot longer than I (or Thingee) have been around. My good friend Nisha [Madhan] is currently working with some ancient Balinese puppetry on stage [in Indian Ink's Kiss The Fish], and her techniques and mine differ greatly out of necessity. Performing will always have incident, I guess that's part of its charm.
Finally, what do you hope kids and adults take away from the show?
I hope kids and adults alike glean the same things I take away from working with Moe: joy and laughter; recognition and empathy; a kindling of wonder; and a greater respect for puns of dubious value.
The Moe Show 9am, Weekdays, Four