This chapter discusses object-led play and the philosophy of object relations that underpins all of Sue Buckmaster’s methods, which has been termed by her collaborators as ‘puppet whispering’. For Buckmaster, objects as actants arrive with agency that precedes the will of the puppeteer receiving them. This concept is illustrated through Buckmaster’s practical exercises (‘The Idea is in the Ball’) and Theatre-Rites’ improvisational event, The Puppet Whisperer live show, which makes visible the often-hidden process of bringing a puppet to life for the first time.

In this chapter, we will explore the core skills of puppetry, including key concepts in Buckmaster’s training vocabulary such as the puppeteer’s ‘gaze’, ‘presence’ and ‘wings’. The chapter will conclude with a discussion of naïve and character puppets as training tools that enable aspiring puppeteers to mobilise the basic concepts of animating objects.