How Psychic Cynthia Came to Life

Date published: 24 Mar 2024

Posted by: Kayleigh Page

Puppet of Slightly Psychic Cynthia

by 2024 Nottingham Puppet Festival Bursary recipient Liz Johnson

I started doing stand up last year after doing an eight-week comedy course with Ultra Comedy in Nottingham. On the course we were encouraged to bring any special talents to our acts and as I’ve been a puppet maker and puppeteer for over 20 years it was decided that I should use puppets with my act. So I developed a character called Brian, who was my brain. I actually had the idea for Cynthia then but didn’t have time to develop the idea as we only had a few weeks before the culmination of the course doing a performance at Prysm nightclub to 200 people. So after the course, and now having the bug for stand up, I decided to develop Cynthia into an act myself. 

Cynthia is based on my much-loved grandmother who passed away 17 years ago. She was an amazing woman with an incredible life story. She read peoples tarot cards and tea leaves and this was the starting point for my act. Obviously I have made an extreme version of Cynthia for comedy value. My act is called ‘Slightly Psychic Cynthia’ as her predictions are not very accurate, or real, but very silly and quite rude. I’m not a ventriloquist so have used the classic puppetry black veil to hide my face and disguise where Cynthia’s voice is coming from. I become a medium psychic so Cynthia can communicate with the audience without getting distracted by me. 

I’ve always enjoyed puppetry for adults and realised one of the most extreme performance arts for adults is stand up comedy. The ability to use puppets to say some shocking things is a great way to raise a laugh and to change the way people view puppets as being not just for kids. 

Cynthia, the puppet, is made from latex, plastazote, foam and fabrics – materials I’ve specialised in during my career as a puppet and character costume maker. I sculpted her head in clay, then made a Plaster of Paris mold, then took a latex skin from that. This created the top of Cynthia’s head, I added a mouth plate from plastazote with her chin made from foam and attached a fabric neck. Spray painting, adding eyes and a wig and Cynthia came to life in my hands. Now she just needed a body and a voice! I’m a big fan of charity shops so thats where her clothes, glasses and jewellery came from. Finally, I had to create her fortune telling board for me to wear so she could have her tea cups and tarot cards. Add some rude predictions and we were ready to face our public but were they ready for us? Only time will tell! 

Meet Cynthia and see what the future holds for you on 18th April, 10.30pm at Puppet Cabaret, Royal Concert Hall.