In the 1950s I started to experiment with different types of puppet other than conventional
hand or string puppets. I often felt that puppets should not have conventional voices
or ways of communicating through accepted vocal techniques. To this end I created
a character called ‘Pod’. The design of his head had one specific feature - a mouth
with pursed lips characteristic of someone who whistles. The intention was to develop
communication with the audience by whistling, and visual mime and movement techniques.
‘Pod’ started his life by emerging from a pea pod, and was faced with the need to
create his own world. Each scenario dealt with his search for a home, items to eat,
clothes to keep warm, and to prevent getting wet etc. The series was aimed at television.
For some time I improvised sequences with a live theatre audience to discover different
possibilities of communicating. I realised that if the character was to be successful
televisual techniques would also need to be exploited and developed. It also became
clear that some effects would require techniques that were not, at that time, available.
Later an opportunity presented itself to re-work the ideas to enable me to develop
the ideas for BBC Wales. This was not successful, mainly due to a lack of imagination
on the part of programmers.
During 1962, Ann Wood was searching for ideas and asked me if I had anything that
might be suitable. Then the idea of looking at the ‘Pod’ was proposed. By this time,
there were technical developments in television that would have made some ideas possible.
The basic idea was, that when television programmes closed down a small bright spot
was left in the middle of the grey screen. The character had a rubber index finger
that was used to enlarge the spot, a peephole through which his eye could be seen,
then the letters ‘P’ and ‘D’ would be written each side of the spot. The character
then made more scribbles that were ultimately wiped out to reveal ‘Pod’ himself.
He would then play with the blank screen, popping out from the top, bottom and sides
of the screen frame. Finally he would breath on the screen to create a steamed-up
effect, he would then create more drawings.
Later ideas were based on ‘Pod’s ability to appear on different programmes and play
with elements in use, including adding moustaches to presenters faces etc. The character
would also introduce, and get involved in elements of storytelling. He was to be
a kind of ‘gremlin’ in the works of the television set, and continue to use non verbal
means of communication.
Unfortunately, efforts to discover means of steaming up the screen through ‘Pod’s’
mouth became difficult. Time in the hired facility house, didn’t allow for sufficient
time to perfect the desired effect, and the recording of one of the unsuitable experiments
was finally used. This led to complaints that it wasn’t a good example for children
to see a character spitting on a television screen.
‘Pod’s’ name was changed to ‘Pob’ without consultation. The subsequent series of
‘Pob’s’ Programme’s’ were a great success and featured many leading television personalities
reading stories , and presenting other items, and is still recognised as one of the
top children’s television programmes of all time.
In recent years, and despite the fact that the programmes haven’t been screened for
many years. Students and other adults still recognise and ask about ‘Pod’/’Pob’,
with great pleasure.