About the company

In 2018 Scarlett Hayler-King of Watch That King Productions featured Rust & Stardust's work in a documentary. Watch here!

Rust & Stardust is a Sussex-based puppet theatre company, established by Katie Sommers and Eleanor Conlon in 2015.

We're passionate about stories, folklore and mythology, and we're inspired by the natural world, unconventional performance spaces and all things homegrown and handmade.

We create all our puppets, costumes, sets and props ourselves and mainly produce our own original scripts. 

We pride ourselves on our commitment to sustainability in theatre and taking responsibility for our environmental impact. We aim to use recycled and re-purposed materials in the creation of our puppets, animations, sets and costumes, and to promote greener theatre in our workshops and education projects. 

Our first production, The Wild Man of Orford, was shortlisted for the 2015 Sustainable Practice Award by the Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts and Creative Carbon Scotland.

In 2015 we collaborated as puppeteers on a production of Beowulf, part of the Sea of Stories season at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and also began working with Bright Moon Theatre in Brighton as associated artists on many of their projects. 

With a collective of Brighton artists and puppeteers, we took part in two gallery shows: The Art of Puppetry at the Grange Gallery, Rottingdean and Making Magic In The Museum at Hove Museum & Art Gallery. Both exhibitions featured our puppets, sets and costumes and regular performances.

We created a trilogy of science shows written by Sussex playwright Anthony Hope, which have featured at Brighton Science Festival for the last three years: The Poetical Scientist, Under The Apple Tree, and Seeing Stars, which one reviewer called, “enchanting, informative and exhilarating in equal measure.” 

Our science shows were all accompanied by sold-out educational children’s workshops.

In 2016 and 2017 we were delighted to develop an exciting new show for families with recorder quartet Palisander. Dr Dee’s Daughter and the Philosopher’s Stone was awarded Arts Council England funding for a UK tour. The show, set in Elizabethan England and featuring themes of science and magic, was called, “superb on all levels,” “a complete and brilliant package,” and “a family show which will be a hard act to follow.”

The tour included performances at Brighton Early Music Festival, Newbury Spring Festival, Lake District Summer Music, Beverley Early Music Festival, Cheltenham Music Festival, Wiltshire Music Centre and The Stables Milton Keynes.

In 2016 Rust & Stardust launched Puppet Parties, our “magical and special” children’s parties featuring mini shows and themed craft activities. 

From there, we published our books The Tale of Miss Fox and The Tale of Piggy Pirate, adapted from our party shows.

In early 2018 Rust & Stardust collaborated with Reverend Peter Blee at St Michael and All Angels Church, Berwick, on a term-long arts and education project with Alfriston Primary School, which involved the students creating their own puppets, sets and script with us and culminated in a public performance in the church.

We have worked with several other schools to create educational shows and workshops which tie in with the Key Stage 1 and 2 curriculum. 

Since 2016 we have been working with the Thomas Marshall Education Fund in Suffolk. TMEF supports the education, training and life skills of young people in Mozambique, and has enabled us to bring our shows The Wild Man of Orford and The Green Children of Woolpit to Suffolk to raise money for the charity.

In 2018 TMEF facilitated a project with the Arts Award students at Orford Primary School, Black Shuck. Students participated in every stage of the project, from making their own puppets to be used in the show, to rehearsing puppetry, acting, songs and dance, and finally participating in public performances with Rust & Stardust.

Eleanor Conlon

Eleanor is a puppeteer, writer and costume maker. She has an MA in Shakespeare and Early Modern Drama and trained at Shakespeare's Globe. Plays include The Wild Man of Orford, Three Ribbons, Turning Leaves, A Winter Journey, Dr Dee's Daughter & The Philosopher's Stone, The Green Children of Woolpit and Black Shuck. Eleanor is also a storyteller and costume designer. 

Katie Sommers

Katie is a puppeteer, model maker and animator with a BA in animation from the University of the Arts London. She specialises in stop motion, 2D animation, puppet making and illustration. Katie has made puppets and performed for a number of productions, including Atomic Force Productions' Beowulf, Bright Moon Theatre's The Crossing and The Invisible Giant for Feral Theatre.