Sanctuary’s (Laughing) Starman


When you're devising a puppet show inspired by the classic story of The Little Prince and plan to use live-action and film to play with perspective and dimensions, you need a lot of space.

And space is something that Brazilian-born film and theatre-maker Joel Bernardes has run out of at home in his Poole flat.

“Seriously, my flat is so small and it’s already a mess with all my props – if I started to rehearse this show at home as well, I think my wife would kill me!” laughs the friendly 50-year-old surrounded by his puppets, screens, sets and sundry props on the floor and front row seats of the Sherling Studio at Lighthouse.

“This space is much better for me. Here I can spread out and experiment with the puppets and see how everything works together. It would be impossible to make this show without it, so I am thankful for the Sanctuary scheme and that Lighthouse has been so caring and interested in my plans, encouraging me to apply for this support and help.”

Having made his living as a full-time actor, director and puppet maker in Brazil, Joel moved to the UK in 2004 and has run puppet-making workshops in schools and parks, but only now has he been able to work on what he is determined will become his first full show.

“I came to do some work here, but I fell in love with the UK, I got married here, and decided to stay. This is my dream to make my own show and thanks to the support of Lighthouse it is so close I can touch it.”

Inspired by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s much-loved novella – second only to the Bible as the most translated work ever – Joel’s piece The Laughing Star muses on the story’s themes of love, friendship and inclusion to create a family show for eight-year-olds and over.

“In this imaginative modern adaptation of the cherished classic I am exploring The Little Prince through a new character – a young boy, not a prince – who also lives in solitude and embodies the essence of those who may feel like outsiders within our social, cultural, and institutional contexts,” Joel explains.

“Using puppets, masks, mime, mapping projection and interactive fun to tell the story, the young boy embarks on a whimsical journey to a dystopian world, one that intriguingly mirrors some aspects of our own society. As he navigates this landscape, our character becomes a playful symbol of those seeking connection and representation, and with the help of an important ally – a biplane pilot who spends most of his time caring for his beloved garden – they might make some important changes in this new world.

“This delightful and interactive experience warmly invites families to join in an enchanting exploration of society and self-discovery.

“I’m making the show for everyone, me included. I’m 50 now but there’s no way I want to allow the inner child in me to die. So this is a kind of homage to The Little Prince in the year of its 80th anniversary.

“The story is told with just one person – me – and my puppets, as well as masks, mime but I want to mix all my skills, so as well as the puppetry and acting there will be mapping projection, so I can play with the perspective and dimensions.

The projection should work as an extension of the stage allowing the physical and digital storyline to be stitched together as one.”

Working at Lighthouse for a week of R&D Joel has been consulting with Dorset-based theatre practitioner Natasha Nixon whose directing has included work in the West End at The Garrick Theatre, The National Theatre, Camden People’s Theatre, The Young Vic Theatre and more.

“The Sanctuary week enabled me to establish the structure of the play and now I can start to make it work. My hope is to have a play ready to be performed by November in time for Christmas.

“I am paying for all of this from my own pocket, there is no outside funding yet, apart from the Lighthouse support with space. We are open to discussing it with potential supporters/sponsors.

“I am an optimistic person and I’ve always had this feeling that something great is going to happen.”


The Laughing Star

Director: Joel Bernardes

Consultancy: Natasha Nixon

Performer and puppet maker: Joel Bernardes

Photography: Grazi Goulart


Keep in touch with Joel’s work at