By Charles Hutchinson

YORK puppeteer, performer and producer Freddie Hayes is to release her short comedy film,Fred & Sharon online on May 29 to cheer up the city in lockdown.

Freddie’s film depicts two unhappily married puppets, Fred and Sharon, owners of a dated York boozer. “But with a shift in British drinking culture, the business is now in jeopardy and Fred must venture into the dangerous world of ‘The Hipster’ to save the pub,” says the puppeteer.

The ten-minute film features the extraordinary puppets from Fred’s Microbrewery that Freddie performed with during last summer’s Great Yorkshire Fringe in York. For the film, Freddie’s puppets popped out at diverse locations around the city, from Spark: York to Young Thugs Studios.

"Gone are the days of Spitting Image, so here comes the York equivalent, for all your lockdown viewing pleasures,” she says.

You can tune into Freddie's puppet comedy on May 29 at 8pm by joining a 'live watch party' via Facebook@FreddieDoesPuppets.

Here, Charles Hutchinson puts some questions to the puppeteer...

When and where did you make the film?

“Fred & Sharon has taken about a year to put together with Nico Jones, filmmaker from

“The film is divided into two different worlds: Fred and Sharon’s old-school social club and the hipsters of York.

“I attended a gig at Young Thugs Studios in South Bank and I thought that the South Bank Social Club bar would be the perfect oldie-worldie backdrop for Fred and Sharon’s pub. For the hipsters of York, I decided to film at True Story café as well as Spark: York.”

Forgive me for not knowing, but where and what is the True Story café?

“True Story is a vegan café on Lord Major’s Walk. It’s a real hidden gem in York and is worth a visit for the delicious food and amazing views of the Minster.”

Who is Nico Jones and how did you meet?

“Nico is a York filmmaker who’s directed films such as the Fall In Love With Independents viral video, for Indie York, and Chicken On A Raft for York music heroes Blackbeard's Tea Party.

“We started working together through the close-knit York art community and I’d seen his work through online videos.

“Nico was the brains behind the making of the film. As the director and script writer, he managed to capture the essence of the characters, and compressed all of that northern spirit into a ten-minute short film.”

How does making a puppet film differ from a live performance?

“Puppeteering for film differs considerably from a live show. Mistakes can be covered up and re-made in film production, whereas in live performance you rely on improvised banter and having a connection with the audience.

“It’s a bit of gamble performing live and I get very nervous. When it’s a good gig, it feels amazing. But a bad gig can make you feel idiotic and in a pit of hell. Especially when you’re waving around a drunk-old-man puppet to 50 audience members!

“But with film you get up close and personal with the puppets, seeing every expression and emotion behind the movement.

“Seeing Fred & Sharon on the big screen really brings them to life, so much so that you forget half-way through that they’re puppets.

“I think that’s what’s so fantastic about puppets, especially adult puppetry, as it allows grown-ups to slip into a more child-like mindset but still enjoy a bit of rudeness.”

How did you settle on the ten-minute format?

“We settled on ten minutes of material as it was long enough for viewers to see the emotional trajectory – and short enough to spark interest.

“Nowadays, if an online video isn’t funny within the first ten seconds, you will turn it off. So, having something short and sweet was the perfect compromise.”

How are you dealing with life in lockdown limbo? It must be so frustrating as a performer...

“I’m coping well and have been entertaining myself with a lot of bad TV and karaoke. (I was given a karaoke microphone for my birthday, so I’m feeling very sorry for the neighbours right now!)

“I’ve been making puppets for a theatre commission during lockdown, which has kept me busy too.”