Brian Green with Toy Theatre Collection

"I have many happy memories of presenting shows and visiting other puppet theatres both at home and overseas and I should like to think that in my humble way, I have entertained and perhaps inspired others to take up a very satisfying and exciting craft and form of theatre"

Brian Green, 1938 - 2006


Brian Green saw his first marionette show in 1945, when he was 7 years old.  It was a performance given by girls of Queen Mary's Grammar School in Walsall and consisted of a Teddy Bear's Picnic, an Underwater Ballet and a selection of Circus and Variety Acts.  Thus began Brian's life-long fascination with puppetry.  Within days, he was searching his local library for books on puppet-making and soon set about making his first glove puppets from papier mache modelled over a light bulb.

Hansel & Gretel Shadows
Variety Marionette by Brian Green

After seeing the Lilliput Marionette Theatre at Walsall Town Hall and the Lanchesters, performing at the Theatre Royal in Birmingham, Brian decided that marionettes were the puppets for him and after more trips to the library, managed to put together a few marionette circus items which formed his first marionette show.  During the 1950s, no opportunity was missed to see the leading marionette exponents of the day, including the Hogarth Puppets, Eric Bramall, the Stavordales and Tietro di Piccoli from Rome.

In the early 1950s, Brian made a selection of 24 inch figures based on popular entertainers of the day, including Tommy Steele, Liberace and the Beverley Sisters.  Together with the ever-popular disjointing skeleton, these formed the main content of a short variety performance worked open-stage, which was taken around local cinemas as part of the popular Saturday Matinee performances of the day.

Variety Marionette by Brian Green
Variety Marionette by Brian Green
Blithfield Puppet Theatre "The Escape" 1961

Following National Service, in 1961, Brian was invited to perform on a regular basis at Blithfield Hall, near Rugeley, Staffordshire.  Several seasons were presented including Circus and Music Hall shows, but most notably a specially-written play "The Escape", dealing with an episode in the history of the Hall, with the voice of Mary Queen of Scots provided by Lady Bagot.  The Puppet Theatre at Blithfield came to an end when Lady Bagot re-married and the Hall would no longer be open to the public.

In 1968, a new touring version of the theatre started up again with several of Brian's work colleagues.  After a couple of years, they were offered a permanent home in a room at the rear of a Pub in Walsall Town Centre.  Two productions a month were staged in this new home, which became known as "The Walsall Marionette Theatre".  At this time, Brian was joined by puppet enthusiasts Trevor and Margaret Worrall and set-designer, Ken Fletcher.  The standard of work being produced at this time was very high.  Trevor Worrall was able to produce voice recordings of a very professional quality and Ken Fletcher's sets would have been the envy of many a professional company.

Brian Green with Trevor & Margaret Worrall - Backstage Walsall Puppet Theatre - 1973

Backstage Walsall Puppet Theatre

Backstage Walsall Puppet Theatre

Shows were halted at the Walsall Marionette Theatre, when the floor of the room had to be taken up for North Sea Gas to be installed.  This identified a problem with the foundations and the room was declared unsafe for use.  Fortunately, a local school, The Alumwell School, stepped in and offered to re-house the puppet theatre and shows continued there for another year.

Then came the highlight of the Walsall Marionette Theatre's existence; the offer to appear at the Edinburgh Festival in 1974, where they performed their lavish production of Aladdin to full houses and much acclaim.  Not long after this, members of the group began to drift away to other jobs and other areas, leaving only Brian Green and Trevor Worrall, who adapted some of the previous productions to touring versions and toured as a two-man show to local community venues.

Ken Fletcher's Set Design for Sleeping Beauty
Aladdin - Walsall Puppet Theatre

One of their most impressive productions at this time, "The Magic Castle" consisted of almost the entire former repertoire of the Walsall Marionette Theatre shortened and adapted for glove, rod and shadow puppets, with a short marionette cabaret and some magic tricks thrown in for good measure.  This show was an object lesson in pace and showmanship and delighted hundreds of family audiences across the Midlands for several years.

After this period, Trevor Worrall changed jobs and was no longer able to assist with the shows, so Brian was left working on his own.  Having accepted an engagement to work in Walsall Parks with a large rod Bunraku version of Hansel and Gretel, Brian requested the assistance of Gerry and Karen Mahoney - teachers he had met on his travels - and they agreed.  This was the start of what became a full-time professional puppet company - The Merlin Puppet Theatre.  Brian worked with Merlin Puppet Theatre for three seasons, before a change of career meant he gave up puppets completely for a period of about 15 years.

Hansel & Gretel
"Mr Green's Dining Room Theatre"

In 1995, however, he returned to his first love - the Toy Theatre and following a performance at Leicester Guild Hall, Brian re-entered the puppet world with renewed enthusiasm in the guise of "Mr Green's Dining Room Theatre", producing many elaborate productions including "Jack the Giant Killer" and "The Maid & the Magpie", with all his customary flair and showmanship undiminished.

Brian's Toy Theatre performances were much in demand and although he had engagements planned well into the future, the severe ill health he had fought for many years, finally caught up with him and he passed away in January 2006.

I first met Brian Green in the mid-1970s, during his two-man touring days with Trevor Worral.  To meet Brian was to make a friend for life.  He was a tremendously good-spirited man, who, through all his years of ill health, never lost his immense sense of fun and good humour.  His boundless enthusiasm was infectious and he was constantly in the process of making new puppets for a fabulous new production.  Brian's shows were local shows for local people.  Most of the venues I saw him perform in, he could have walked to from his home and he seemed to be on first name terms with everyone in his audience.

In Brian Green's passing, the world of puppets has lost one of its most talented and modest showmen.

Brian Green in full flow - Merlin Puppet Theatre 1979


Detail for the above article taken from Brian Green's Memoirs "Puppets for Pleasure" written in 2000.
Edited and updated in 2006 by Ian Denny for publication in the Autumn 2006 'Puppet Master' Magazine