Image of Flotsam and Jetsam and SCAN members
Flotsam and Jetsam: Lempen’s Lancaster Debut


“Flotsam floats, Jetsam sinks  –  both their worlds are on the brinks,

The jagged arcs of waves and sharks  –  chase them both in minds and hearts.

They must break through their tears and fears – and worries of a thousand years,

To find what’s true and out of the blue  –  discover the other and a friend that’s new.”

Lempen Puppet Theatre

On the 4th of February, Lancaster welcomed two performances from Lempen Puppet Theatre’s newest show, Flotsam and Jetsam, to The Round space at The Dukes.

Advertised as a show for children with a neat runtime of fifty minutes, the performance came packed full of original music by Chris Davies, followed the direction of Mark Whittaker. Basked in a rich, immersive lighting to create an engaging, it was enjoyable experience for youngsters and adults alike.

Originating in Skipton, West Yorkshire, Lempen Puppet Theatre was founded by Liz and Daniel Lampen in 1995. Through utilising vivid imagination and a passion for creating performable stories, the duo aimed to connect audiences to the fictional world of handmade puppetry, all whilst keeping the timeless craft alive for modern generations. They are regularly inspired by the traditional tales from myths and folklore.

However, since this show, the pair have not performed together for twenty years. Hence the characters of Flotsam and Jetsam embodied the tell-tale traits of each other coming together to accept one another’s differences.

Liz’s character, Flotsam, is soft and plush-like, her white pelt resembling that of a furry polar bear. On the other hand the elfish Jetsam – Daniel’s personification – is lanky, his limbs rigid and demeanour alert.

Throughout the performance, the puppeteers’ different ways of working were visually addressed, interspersed with moments of cheerful banter.

Flotsam and Jetsam puppets (Via Amy Brook)

Liz describes Flotsam and Jetsam as being a flexible piece of theatre: “The show deals with issues such as climate change, the concept of displacement and friendship, but no person’s interpretation of the story is exactly the same.”

Many viewers could agree on certain plot points, but held more personal meanings that were unique to themselves, ourselves within SCAN included.

Naomi Onakunle writes: “Although the main target audience is young children, I found that there were aspects that could be of interest to adults, such as the underlying themes of teamwork and communication,

“I thought the initial jesting of the puppeteers with one another was very effective as it engaged and amused the children in the audience, thus allowing a bond to be formed. It also created a smooth transition into the introduction of the two puppets.

“What intrigued me the most about the play was its mise-en-scène. It was simple, yet creative and experimental. I particularly liked the multiple functions that some of the props served.

“For example, the trees in Jetsam’s forest were used to create a bird flying, monster tentacles, and the mouth of a large fish. I found the latter intriguing as it was used in a scene where the puppets were swallowed.

“This in turn reminded me of the Bible story of Jonah and the Whale, as well as a similar predicament that Marlin and Dory found themselves in during Finding Nemo.

“I also thought that the lighting was very impressive and impactful. For example, when Flotsam is on stage, there is blue and white lighting which depicts the harsh and cold environment that she lives in. However, the lighting later becomes orange and red which implies a change in weather and temperature. This change ultimately led to her habitat melting away, suggesting the onset of global warming.”

The Lempens holding Flotsam and Jetsam (via Amy Brook)

Caitlyn Taft explains: “Flotsam and Jetsam is unlike any other puppet show I’ve seen. With children shows nowadays, they feel almost soulless and at times overstimulating with harsh colours.

“Flotsam and Jetsam is something so uniquely wonderful. The music, plus the bright—yet soft─ colours and the tactile use of background, lighting, and props, helps with sensory stimulation.

“The plot of Flotsam and Jetsam is whatever the audience interpret it as. It’s supposed to encourage children to use their creativity to imagine their own story that fits with the scenes.

“My interpretation of the story fits the themes that many other audience members may have come to. For me, the story touches on climate change: Flotsam loses their home due to harsh weather, and Jetsam is swept away by strong winds.

“The main part of the story that I interpreted was this idea of being separated from home and learning to make friendships in a new place. As a university student who is quite shy, this obviously spoke to me.

“Flotsam and Jetsam originally don’t get on but through their journey together, and through sharing their favourite items with one another, they learn how to love each other. Flotsam and Jetsam are very different. This is expressed through their movements and the relationship between the two puppeteers.”

Jetsam puppet (Via Amy Brook)

Amy Brook concludes: “From Robin Hood to the Mystery Screenings, I’ve found so many excuses to keep returning to The Dukes this academic year. They’ve had so much good stuff in their line-up, but I was especially excited to see this group being given a space to perform in.”

“Growing up in West Yorkshire, Lempen’s work played a large part in shaping my love for anthropomorphic fiction. I regularly attended their event, Skipton Puppet Festival, when I was younger, both with friends and with my primary school, where they invited other talented creators to share their work.

“One memory I retain is of seeing their now retired show The Journey of Turtle for a classmate’s birthday party. We would have been around six or seven at the time, and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. Seeing their work again as an adult brings a different perspective to my childhood.

“I think we find it difficult to really appreciate the human motivation behind puppet characters when we are younger. When a child witnesses good puppetry, they see an inanimate character being embodied, thus see them as a living being, but when we are older, we look beyond the puppets and see real people operating them – talented individuals who are passionate about their work.

“Unfortunately, from this comes a loss of the magic of true immersion, but the experience is still as memorable for equally viable reasons.”

You can visit Lempen Puppet Theatre’s website here to find future showings of Flotsam and Jetsam coming to a theatre near you.

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