Alumni News

A unique journey of performance and puppetry


Walk With Amal

The Walk has been a four month long, 8,000-mile journey taken by Little Amal – a towering puppet with a team of walkers and helpers alongside her seeing her through an epic voyage across Turkey and across Europe. To find her mother. To get back to school. To start a new life. As their Walk With Amal ends in the UK this week, we caught up with East 15 alumni Bartolomeo Bartolini, Emma Longthorne, and Seb Charles to hear about this unique performance experience and the vitality of its heart and message.

You can find out more about how to Walk With Amal yourself during the final steps of her journey here; including events at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Somerset House, Trafalgar Square, The Roundhouse and across the UK.

Thanks for joining us, and great to see you all again. Please introduce us to yourselves, and to Amal. 

BB: I am Bartolomeo Bartolini; a stilt walker and puppeteer for The Walk and graduate of East 15’s BA Physical Theatre course.

EL: I’m Emma Longthorne, a BA World Performance graduate from 2011 and I work as professional actor and puppeteer.

SC: Hello my name is Sebastian Charles and I trained at East 15 in BA Physical Theatre from 2011. The varied and creative course introduced me to many modules that helped shaped my idea of what direction I might start going in, with regards to my career in this industry. 

EL: I first heard about The Walk when I was training in 2019 at the Curious School of Puppetry. I was excited to hear that this important humanitarian project would have a puppet as its central character. Amal offers a representation of the plight of young refugees making a treacherous journey in the hope of finding safety, a home and an education they deserve. 

SC: I was invited to audition for The Walk in 2019 and thought the idea and the message was overwhelming beautiful and incredibly important. To even be a guide and helping hand for Amal on her journey would be enough, let alone walk in her shoes at 3.5 metres high.

BB: During the journey I've also been Producer of a platform for The Walk on the Bloomberg Connects App. I collected dozens of perspectives from artists with refugee or migrant background across Europe and with them, we recorded audio guides around what “home” means to them. 

When the journey started from Turkey, along the way it was so exciting to meet all these artists who I had talked to only through Zoom, in their new home, I loved to see their faces at the sight of Little Amal.

The piece has been months long and 8000 miles of journey - what is your role on the walk and what have been the particular challenges and highlights along the way?

EL: I am 1 of the 10 puppeteers working on The Walk. It’s our job to help Little Amal on her journey and to accompany her every step of the way. It takes three puppeteers at a time to manipulate her, one on stilts operating ‘the heart’ of Amal controlling her legs, head and body and two puppeteers operating each arm.

SC: Walking in or alongside Amal has been a once in a lifetime experience.

BB: The weather, very hot, very cold, very wet, has been one challenge which all people without a shelter must endure - the feeling of walking through the elements, tired and hungry, whilst not being able to see home at the horizon has struck me as so real for all those whom Amal represents.

SC: For the most part she has been welcomed with open arms anywhere but we faced a challenging time in one area in Greece that tested the strength and unity of our group. Being attacked for supporting this message was a small but very real example of what it must feel like to walk in Amal’s shoes and those that have gone before us.

Amal offers a representation of the plight of young refugees making a treacherous journey in the hope of finding safety, a home and an education they deserve.
Is there anything that you learned or experienced during your time at East 15 that has been particularly important during your time with Amal, or in your work that led you to join the piece?

BB: One thing I bring with me from East15 is the openness of helping each other; supporting your colleagues whatever happens. That's quite fundamental when you are dealing with a 3.5m tall puppet and when every day is essentially a new improvisation, with different audience reactions and fresh challenges.

EL: The thing I love most about puppetry is the ensemble nature of the work. Working as a team to bring an object to life and live the story and character together. My course at East 15 had a strong focus on ensemble theatre and since graduating I’ve always noted that performers that have trained at East 15 are generous, dynamic and strong team members open to all challenges.

SC: Walking with Amal is completely unique, and whilst walking on stilts in East 15 and outside of university and understanding your body and how it moves has helped, this experience something we never have fully trained for.

Finally, as the journey ends, in your words, what is the message or messages that Walk With Amal carries, and why are they important for us now?

EL: Her message is ‘don’t forget about us’ and it is so important right now, especially as the world’s attention has turned to the pandemic over the last 18 months. The project has highlighted many amazing charities and organisations, working across Turkey and Europe, aiming to make these hopes reality and I feel so proud to have worked in partnership with them over the last three months.

BB: As the climate crisis is creeping in, changing bit by bit our daily lives, the focus goes to the children, the young generation who will face the consequences; while our generation must now make a material and brave change, the children of today and tomorrow must be guaranteed an education, a dignity and all the support they need, to deal with the repercussions of our past mistakes. All people, especially the young generation, must be sure that a shared humanity, the welcoming of various cultures, the celebration of our differences through creativity and traditions will be the only solution going forward.

SC: Understanding the importance of community is everything. Amal represents not just those who have been before her and the stories they have told, but the idea of hope - the meaning of her name. To hold the light over the darkness that has spread and separated us as humans. To accept and take care of refugees and educate the world in how we can do better. Be better. To hold life above any other agenda. To come together as one and to stop putting up walls.