Life of Pi is happy return to Chichester for Romina Hytten
Romina – who is playing Tiger Heart + Hind in the three-person puppetry team which brings to life on stage a Royal Bengal tiger – was a member of Chichester Festival Youth Theatre from the age of about 11 to 19. Among the highlights was playing Lucy Pevensie in the Youth Theatre’s Christmas production of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe in 2011.
“And I just think the Youth Theatre gave me everything, to be honest. I get a bit emotional just thinking about it. It was an incredible experience. It was my training. I really wanted to go to drama school and I auditioned several times but I never got in but through the Youth Theatre I got my first professional job which was with Running Wild after the Youth Theatre did it. I was part of the Youth Theatre production at Cass Sculpture Park and when it transferred to Regent’s Park, they asked me if I would like to be involved, me and Fred Davis, because they were impressed with what we had done and also because they wanted to take a little bit of the Youth Theatre to London.”
Romina and Fred puppeteered the baby orangutans – “which was appropriate because we were the babies of the cast! And it was really, really fantastic. It was an amazing experience. I just thought that this is what I want to do and so I thought that I should train and go to drama school but I didn't get in the next year. But then Running Wild went on tour and that was another job and so really I just learned everything from working. I've learnt on the job and I look back on the Youth Theatre now as my training. I just loved everything about the Youth Theatre sessions and doing the Christmas productions. You were really treated like professionals and they just held you to that standard which was so high.”
Since then Romina has effectively specialised in puppetry – this will in fact be her third tiger in Chichester: “Every puppet is very different from the design to how many people operate it. But I just love the fact that it's teamwork that you are doing. I love that you bring a character to life as puppeteers. And it's incredibly meditative to step on stage because really your role is to disappear and to say ‘Don't look at me! Look at what I'm bringing to life on the stage!’ And you want to fade into the background. You have to let go of your ego. It's not really about you.
“I've done a lot of animals and it's about bringing the animal to life and it's amazing the detail you can get through the puppetry. You are telling a story and you are really magnifying things. Sometimes you might lift one single paw and then you think about what it means when that paw hovers or you might dip the paw into the water and then shake off the water. I just really love that detail.”