Winner of many awards and Oscar (1993) and BAFTA (1996) nominated artist, Barry Purves is one of the most acclaimed English animators. Eclectic artist, master of stop motion animation, he is also the director and scenographer of theatrical productions, many of which were made for the Altrincham Garrick Playhouse. He is also the author of the books Stop Motion – Passion, Process, Performance (2008, Focal Press) and Basics Animation – Stop Motion (2010, Ava Publishing), passionate introductions to the stop motion technique.
He started his career by contributing to the animation of TV series produced by Cosgrove Hall Productions Ltd., including The Pied Piper of Hamelin (1980) and The Wind in the Willows (1984), and he made his very own first short film in 1989. The film, Next: The Infinite Variety Show (1989), produced by Aardman Animation Ltd, is a celebration of the endless possibilities of theatre and it sees a bewildered William Shakespeare staging all his plays in front of a listless producer who resembles Peter Hall, founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Following Next in 1992 is Screen Play, Bare Boards Productions: the tale of a tragic love story recounted using the style typical of the Nō and Kabuki theatre and aesthetically inspired by the decorated ceramics of the Willow pattern style, a type of chinoiserie very popular in 19th century England.
In 1993 Purves met the Italian Opera: Rigoletto, part of the series of short films for “Opera Vox”, is a baroque adaptation of Verdi’s opera in which Purves temporarily abandons the static nature of theatre for a moving video camera that frantically moves from balcony to balcony of the palace of the lascivious Duke of Mantua. With this work Purves ambitiously tried to squeeze as much of the debauchery, intrigue and angst of Verdi’s original as possible into a half-hour television slot. With Achilles (1995) he returned to a theatrical installation: arising from the background of the war of Troy, the love story between Achilles and Patroclus is retold as an erotic Greek tragedy and narrated by the actor Derek Jacobi. The following work, Gilbert & Sullivan – The Very Models (1998), is a delicate and ironic homage to the English operetta that the author dedicates to his parents. It tells about the conflicting relationship between composer Arthur Sullivan and librettist William Schwenck Gilbert, that here are very similarly portrayed as their caricatures as they appeared in Victorian newspapers. In the following years Purves collaborated to the realization of Tim Burton’s Mars Attack! (1996) and Peter Jackson’s King Kong (2003). His next “a solo” film, a Christmas special for BBC1, is Hamilton Mattress (2001): the story of an ant eater with a passion for music, whose dream is to become a drummer.
In the last decade Purves has conducted successful animation workshops for some of the major cinematographic studios, such as Pixar and Dreamworks, and took part in many national and international festivals as a member of the jury, as during the Ottawa International Animation festival in 2012, and was president of the jury at the Stuttgart Animation festival in 2013. His latest works, long running series such as Rupert Bear (2007), Toby’s Travelling Circus (2012) and Twirlywoos (2015- 2017), are delicate and ironic stories addressed to children. However, it is with Plume (2011) and Tchaikovsky – An Elegy (2011) that Purves reaches a more mature tone. This latter short film in particular – a M.I.R. Studio production for Russian Tv – tells the life and loves of the Swan Lake composer with a single-room set and one puppet only: the famous composer of stands on a stage and evaluating his life, while his dreams and memories alternate on the background.
Plume, a Dark Prince production for ARTE, is perhaps his most abstract work: it tells the story, without dialogue, of an angel-like creature whose wings are torn off by a group of diabolic creatures. He becomes a cripple but this also projects him into a new dimension of existence. A dramatic work full of suffering and survival, in which the author has summarized his doubts, anxieties and personal griefs. Never before has Purves revealed so strongly his love for puppets, artificial creatures that are skilful performers of the secret and hidden impulses and desires thanks to the magic of fiction, of imagination, able performers of secret and hidden impulses and desires.