We spoke to animatronics and costume maestro Tahra Zafar, to discover her inspiration for the enchanting Bing Live! puppets
Tahra Zafar has not only worked on hit films including Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Star Wars VII, but helped the Queen prepare for her first ever acting role at the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony.
As head of costume, hair and make-up for the London Olympic and Paralympic Opening and Closing Ceremonies, Tahra oversaw the completion of 23,000 costumes, dressing everyone from waving children to David Beckham and the Queen.
She says that her skills picked up over decades in film and theatre have been invaluable to her role designing the stage characters for Bing Live!
Said Tahra: “We had to find a way to turn much-loved, animated animals into stage-sized beings that are large enough to tell the story in a hippodrome, but also small and relatable enough for really young kids who are used to a telly-sized Bing, and perhaps one that they tuck up into bed every night.”
Tahra grew up in the entertainment industry and still remembers one of the first proper performances that she saw: Pickwick with Harry Secombe in the West End. This excited and dazzled her and got her interested in theatre for life.
Said Tahra: “I’d love for Bing Live! to get kids feeling that creative ‘wow’ too. That’s why I’m really passionate about working on pre-school theatre.”
Tahra loves the fact that Bing is the antithesis of the fast-paced, constantly-comparing world of social media and Instagram parenting perfection. Instead it shows that it’s alright for things not to go well, because that throws up another opportunity.
Each of the Bing Live! puppets have been lovingly made to bring the CBeebies favourite characters to life.
Flop alone took Tahra and her team four months to create. She said: “We had someone knit a prototype Flop, then a specialist dyed wool the perfect colour, then we had more prototypes knitted before we developed Flop’s puppetry. On stage, you see one finished object, but many different people with different skills have been involved in creating it.”
Making Bing and friends has been a meticulous, old-fashioned process and this is reflected in the stage show experience for the audience.
Tahra said: “I love that puppets, like the characters themselves, are expressive, forcing us to suspend our imagination, and all be like children.
We’re all going faster and faster in modern life, and it’s important to have those moments to quieten down. I hope that’s what Bing Live! lets families do, so that the adults of the future will look back and say, ‘I remember going to see Bing at the theatre, it was one of my really happy childhood times’.”