Children, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Sea story strikes a sad note

Review: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Blueback ·
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, 10 April ·
Junior review by Isabel, age 9 ·

Spare Parts Puppet Theatre’s production of Blueback was adapted by Peta Murray from the book by Tim Winton, and directed by Philip Mitchell.

The play was about a boy called Abel Jackson and he lived by the sea. One day when he was scuba diving he met a fish and he called him Blueback because of his colour. The story follows Abel as he grows up and tells about the changes in the ocean like pollution.

Abel moved away to go to school and when he came back in the holidays, people were trying to buy his family’s land. After he finished school, Abel went to university to study the ocean and he travelled the world. Meanwhile, his mother was back at home watching all the changes in the ocean like dying fish and sea lions from Antarctica washing up on the coast.

The performers (Daniel Doseck and Jessica Harlond Kenny) were really good at moving the puppets. At the start they moved an eel around and it moved in a very realistic way. My favourite puppet was Blueback because he was really friendly and when he first met Abel he grabbed his flipper and wouldn’t let go. The puppets for Abel and his mother were a bit creepy because they were bald and they didn’t have mouths. The puppets used for when they were swimming made the people look like eels because they had no arms or legs.

The lighting made everything look blue like the sea. The set was used in several ways to make a coral reef, a road and some grape vines. My favourite part was at the end when Abel’s daughter Anna met Blueback.

Overall, the play was quite sad and a little bit scary. I would recommend it for older children because all the death makes it too scary for younger kids.

 

Junior review by Eddy, age 6 ·

This was a story about a fish called Blueback. He was very big, blue and very old. There was a little boy and his mum who lived by the sea. The boy was little at the beginning of the play but he grew up and went to school and then university to study the sea.

The play is very sad because lots of things are dead or get killed, like fish, a shark and lots of people.

The puppeteers moved the puppets really well and made it look like they were swimming. The best part was when the boy discovered Blueback and Blueback nipped his flippers.

There were flashing lights for the lightning. The music got sad when the sad parts happened and was happy when the happy parts happened.

I think this play was quite good and big kids will enjoy it.

Blueback continues until April 27.

Read our “senior” review by Rosalind Appleby here.

Pictured top is a scene from ‘Blueback’.

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Children, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

The call of the sea

Spare Parts Puppet Theatre – Blueback ⋅
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, April 13 ⋅
Review: Rosalind Appleby ⋅

Abel Jackson’s sea-fringed life includes diving for abalone, chores around the house and snorkelling with an enormous groper Blueback. He recounts these events to his dad in questioning letters that underpin Spare Parts Puppet Theatre’s latest show with a meditative, poetic tone.

Abel’s mother Dora Jackson.

The production is an adaptation of Tim Winton’s Blueback, an evocation of a quintessential West Australian coastline which brims with wildness and quirky characters. There is Abel, who spends the long weeks at boarding school practising holding his breath till his return home to his beloved ocean. There is his resilient mum who holds firm against land-hungry  real estate agents and biffs a fish in the nose to deter it from taking the bait of a greedy fisherman. And there is Abel’s absent dad, who we discover is one of a long line of Jackson’s lost at sea in the dangerous whaling industry.

Peta Murray’s slow moving adaptation of Tim Winton’s novel exploits the rhythmic swell of the language, heard via voiceover, with phrases overlapped like waves and peppered with lists: “snapper, dhufish, cod, yellowtail, groper… what are the names of all the fish?”

The theme of the ocean and humanity’s embryonic connection to it, is explored within a meta narrative of the cycle of life. Aided by the puppets, the story is playful and wistful in turn, expressed best in the relationship between Abel and Blueback which is built with games of hide and seek and moments of eye to eye staring. Don Hopkins’ score is propelled by a bass guitar 80’s groove. But there is a melancholy that pervades this work, perhaps from the lists Abel keeps intoning, and the gnawing absence of his father.

The colourful puppets (designed by Hanna Parssinen) include eels, lobsters, bright fish and of course the majestic Blueback, whose graceful and playful nature is captured by puppeteers Jessica Harlond-Kenny and Daniel Dosek. The human puppets are cleverly created using wetsuit material and round driftwood-like heads – part of the constant reiteration of the connection between people and the ocean.

Yet for all the poetic melancholy and environmentally compelling themes, this show left little impact on my entourage. The potential for immersing the audience in the story was never fully realised. We wanted to dive in but felt like we were only getting our toes wet. Perhaps there is no substitute for actually heading to the ocean and discovering its mystical qualities for ourselves.

Blueback continues until April 27.

Read our junior review, by Isabel (age 9) and Eddy (age 6), here.

Pictured top: Blueback meets Abel Jackson.

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Children, News

Kids Autumn Gig Guide

As we approach the school holidays the arts scene is cranking up for kids.

The West Australian Symphony Orchestra is offering two movie screenings with live soundtrack: Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire on March 29/30 and The Little Mermaid on April 26/27. Did you know it has been 30 years since Disney released The Little Mermaid? Dust off the costumes and get ready to sing along to Alan Menken’s Academy Award-winning score!

WA has two youth orchestras and both offer hands-on concerts tailored for children. On April 6/7 the WA Youth Orchestra invites children aged 2–8 to experience live music in an up-close and personal setting. At Babies Proms concerts children learn about the instruments, are invited to conduct the orchestra and can join the musicians on stage. Also popular with kids and the carers, the WA Youth Jazz Orchestra’s similar Jazz for Juniors series on April 16-17 includes a have-a-go session at the end of the show.

Underwater image of diver and sea creature
Puppets tell the story in Spare Parts Puppet Theatre’s Blueback.

During the school holidays (April 13-27) Spare Parts Puppet Theatre will reprise an adaption of Tim Winton’s Blueback. The moving story captures the mystery of the sea and the majesty of an old fish called Blueback. The audience follows Abel’s journey from inquisitive boy to a man prepared to stand up for what he loves and believes in.

Youth Week WA also coincides with the school holidays and Propel Youth is celebrating with their annual KickstART Festival from April 13-20. On offer are 40 free events and workshops celebrating the positive contributions young people make to our community. Craft, songwriting, collage, puppetry and a huge variety of classes are on offer for youth aged 12-26.

There are some great holiday courses available for children. Fremantle Arts Centre offers two and three-hour classes including sessions on how to make your own piggy bank, t-shirt, cuddly toy, or explorations into photography, pottery and animation. Barking Gecko‘s drama classes on April 16-18 look great, with a fairy tale theme and classes catering for ages 5-7  and 8-12.

The State Theatre is hosting two shows touring nationally with CDP Theatre Producers: Room on the Broom, based on Julia Donaldson’s much loved classic (April 23-28) and Billionaire Boy based on David Williams hilarious children’s book (April 24-27). CDP Theatre are the team behind The Gruffulo’s Child and The 13-, 26-, 52- and 78-Storey Treehouses and are pretty reliable for a great live show.

Finally, on May 18 one of my favourite music educators Paul Rissmann returns to WASO for another EChO concert. Backed by an 11-piece orchestra Rissmann will explore the gorgeous children’s books The Giddy Goat and The Lion Who Loved in his gently invitational and entertaining style.

Dive into the arts with your family and enjoy the magic that is autumn in Perth!

Pictured top: children get hands on at Jazz for Juniors.

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Underwater image of diver and sea creature
April 19, Calendar, Children, Performing arts, Theatre

Theatre: Children: Blueback

13 – 27 April @ Spare Parts Puppet Theatre ·
Presented by Spare Parts Puppet Theatre ·

Blueback has been adapted by Peta Murray from the book by Tim Winton.

Blueback is an evocative story set along the Western Australian coastline. It captures the mystery of the sea and the majesty of an old fish called “Blueback”, and the moment when an inquisitive boy stands up for what he loves and believes in.

One of Tim Winton’s most personal and quintessentially Western Australian stories, Blueback will nourish your heart and the beautiful Tim Winton poetry will resonate with you long after you leave the theatre. This award-winning production is an underwater menagerie of exquisite puppetry and an extraordinary celebration of the Western Australian coastline from one of WA’s most beloved authors.

“When Abel Jackson and Blueback the Groper frolic under the sea, the scene is rhythmic and joyful.” – The West Australian

Duration: 50 mins
Perfect for ages 5 and above

April 13 – 27
10am & 1pm daily
Special 6.30pm performance April 18 & 24
No performances Sundays or public holidays.

Monday, 15 April: 10am (Relaxed show – limited capacity)
Tuesday, 16 April: 10am (Special Nan & Pops Session)
Thursday, 18 April: 6:30pm (Auslan interpretation show & PJ PARTY – tickets $15 for groups of four or more for this session)
Wednesday, 24 April: 1pm (Adopt A Puppet Parent Event)

Special Relaxed show:
Monday 15 April, 10am

Special Auslan interpretation:
Thursday 18 April, 6.30pm

Booking Essential
Please visit www.sppt.asn.au or telephone 9335 5044

Ticket Prices
General Admission: $25.00 (per ticket)
Groups of 4 or more: $24.00 (per ticket)
Groups of 10 or more: $23.00 (per ticket)
$3.95 booking fee applies

Spare Parts Puppet Theatre
1 Short Street, Fremantle
(opposite Fremantle Train Station)

More info
W:  www.sppt.asn.au/events/blueback-2/
E:   boxoffice@sppt.asn.au

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A man looking out with one hand shading his eyes
Children, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

A lesson in overcoming life’s challenges

Junior review: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Moominpappa at Sea ·
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, December 5 ·
Review by Ollie Halusz, age 13 ·

Spare Parts Puppet Theatre has kicked off its 2019 season with a remount of Moominpappa at Sea, adapted from the book by Tove Jansson. The play is about a family, the Moomins, who leave their home to find a different life out at sea, finding comfort on an island with a lighthouse. When they first arrive, they each go off to do their own separate things, discovering both challenges, such as a big storm, trying to find food and a lighthouse that doesn’t work; and delights, such as a beautiful forest, hundreds of fish and fresh soil for a garden. This play goes to show that anyone can overcome any challenges life throws at you.

Puppets from Moominpappa at Sea
The Moomins. Photo:  Jessica Wyld

The lighting, by Elliot Chambers, is effective, transporting the audience to the story’s ocean setting. The sequence with the moon is particularly evocative. The puppets, designed and made by Leon Hendroff, are well made. One particular character, the Groke, reminded me of the Dementors from the Harry Potter series. There are three versions of the Groke – represented by a cloth, a puppet and the performer, Michael Barlow, who wears the cloth to became the character.

Barlow, Spare Parts’ associate director, plays many roles in this production including voicing all of the characters as well as narrating, and was very clear and entertaining.

Leon Hendroff’s set is a miniature version of an island, featuring a lighthouse at one end. Barlow takes advantage of the blank island, using his body and language to describe the setting of a forest, and the ocean surrounding the island. Smoke enhances both the eeriness of this island in the middle of the ocean and the character of the Groke.

Lee Buddle’s music composition and sound effects help to create the sense of the environment and atmosphere.

From my perspective as a 13 year old, I didn’t find the play as enjoyable as I might have a few years ago, but it definitely would suit ages 3-7, and is an ideal outing for parents and grandparents with young children, during the Christmas holiday break.

Moominpappa at Sea plays Spare Parts Puppet Thearte, 14 Jan – 2 Feb.

Read “senior critic” Rosalind Appleby’s review of Moominpappa at Sea.

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Elusive theatre puts audience at sea

Review: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, ‘Moominpappa at Sea‘ ⋅
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, December 7 ⋅
Review by Rosalind Appleby ⋅

Spare Parts Puppet Theatre will launch their summer holiday show Moominpappa at Sea this week. The production is based on a book written by Finnish author Tove Jansson describing the adventures of the eccentric Moomin family. Jansson’s series of stories from the mid 20th century about a family of white trolls with large snouts have developed a cult following. During the Moomin boom in the nineties the book series inspired movies, TV shows, merchandise, theme parks, and even the naming of the Moomintroll asteroid.

The Spare Parts production was created in 2015 by associate director Michael Barlow and the late Noriko Nishimoto, based on a book about the Moomin family moving to a deserted island. In this revival Barlow dons a top hat and takes on the role of Moominpappa, simultaneously voicing the other characters as he moves them around the island. Lighting designer Elliot Chambers operates the lights from the stage and takes on a cameo role as a fisherman/lighthouse keeper.

On one level it is a charming, timeless show that uses good old fashioned storytelling to transport us to a dreamy, mysterious island. On another level it is a melancholic and at times quite scary journey into one of Jansson’s more symbolist books.

We checked out a performance late last year during the schools season. In a string of quite disconnected scenes we discovered that nothing works out for the trolls on their new island home: the lighthouse is too small to enter, Moominmamma’s garden dies and storms wash away Moominpappa’s jetty. The overwhelming message is about loneliness and futility, depicted bleakly in the poem the trolls discover written on the lighthouse wall.

When Moomintroll decides to move out on his own and is haunted by the Troke it becomes quite nightmarish and creepy. The complete blackout in the theatre performance didn’t help; my five year old spent a large part of the performance huddled on my lap.

Many things are left unexplained such as the character of Little My (an adopted daughter), and the lighthouse which Moominpappa describes as huge but is actually far too small. And what is the purpose of the reclusive fisherman who is actually the previous lighthouse keeper?

Barlow providing the voices for Moomintroll and Moominmamma. Photo Jessica Wyld

Part of the problem is the trolls; Leon Hendroff’s designs are faithful to Jansson’s illustrations but essentially they are stuffed toys devoid of expression (not really puppets at all). Barlow’s gentle narrating doesn’t pack much emotional punch either, although it suits Jansson’s dreamy prose.

Instead the production relies heavily on Lee Buddle’s soundtrack to generate character and empathy. The sounds of waves, gulls and wind mix hypnotically with folksy flute and marimba. Even so the show never quite arrives at what the publicity material describes as “the spirit and joy of families going on great adventures together.”

Yet for all its melancholy and elusiveness it held the attention of my children and they both recommended others should go and see it.

In fact they travelled more deeply into the story than I realised. My seven year old thought the point of the story was that we should not take other people’s homes and try to rule over things. “They tried to rule over nature and nature didn’t like it. But when they made friends with the Groke and began to understand the sea it gave them things.”

Moominpappa At Sea runs Jan 14 – Feb 2. Recommended age is 5+ but I would suggest 6+.

Pictured top: Michael Barlow as Moominpappa. Photo Jessica Wyld.

Read a review of Moominpappa at Sea by junior critic Ollie Halusz, aged 13.

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Moonimpappa at Sea
Calendar, Children, February 19, January 19, Performing arts, Theatre

Theatre: Moominpappa at Sea

14 Jan – 2 Feb @ Spare Parts Puppet Theatre ·
Presented by Spare Parts Puppet Theatre ·

Moominpappa at Sea Adapted from the book by Tove Jannson.

Moominpappa at Sea follows the plucky Moomin family as they begin an exciting new life on a rocky island far out to sea. Each family member embarks on an adventure – encountering the island’s mysterious inhabitants and discovering their own sense of place.

From the rumblings of the ocean to the squawks of seabirds, an atmospheric soundscape will transport you to the remote island world of the Moomintrolls brought to life by solo performer, Michael Barlow. This unique magical adventure story of a family ‘at sea’ becomes a journey of self-discovery for us all.

Duration: 50 mins

Suitable for ages 5 and above
10am & 1pm daily
Special 6.30pm performance Jan 18, 25 & Feb 1
No performances Sundays or public holidays.

PJ Party, Friday January 25 at 6:30pm. All tickets just $15
when you book a group of four or more to this session. Get your
jammies on and join us for a fun night at Moominpappa at Sea~

Booking Essential

Please visit  www.sppt.asn.au or telephone 9335 5044
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre
1 Short Street, Fremantle
(opposite Fremantle Train Station)

Produced by special arrangement with Agency North Ltd  www.agencynorth.com

More info:
W: www.sppt.asn.au/
E:  marketing@sppt.com.au

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Children, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Perfectly pitched

Spare Parts Puppet Theatre: The Night Zoo ·
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, 22 September ·
Review by Rosalind Appleby ·

High in an apartment block a lonely girl sits gazing at the stars. On the streets below traffic buzzes by and a stray dog wanders past.

The opening scene of Spare Parts Puppet Theatre’s latest children’s show is constructed from bits of wood, foam and fabric, and the cars are being pushed along by two actors. But the emotions are genuine and so is the response from the audience (mostly children under eight) who interject and laugh uproariously throughout the 60 minute show.

The Night Zoo is written and directed by Michael Barlow and follows the journey of Jamie, who isn’t allowed a pet in her apartment and instead dreams about making friends with zoo animals. It’s a more light-hearted production than last season’s The Farmer’s Daughter, chock-full of colourful puppets and snappy banter, perfectly pitched for kids.

Jamie’s visit to the zoo provides opportunity for plenty of creativity. Puppet-maker Iona McAuley’s work has stood the test of time (the show premiered back in 2009 and this is its fifth revival) and her collection of animals are wonderfully characterised by Lee Buddle’s pre-recorded Dixieland jazz score. A slinky, muted trumpet solo accompanies the thorny devils, a honking baritone saxophone heralds the waddling penguin and the shaggy orangutan struts around to four-bar blues.

A elephant puppet strutting the stage
The elephant required the puppeteer to wear a huge head and ears, operate the trunk with a pulley and stomp around in two enormous boots

The entire show – animals, narrators, Jamie’s character, set changes – was performed by the remarkably versatile Kylie Bywaters and Isaac Diamond, whose playful antics kept the audience enthralled.

Bywaters and Diamond transitioned smoothly from commentators to puppeteers and their dexterity made the animals seem so much more than just a mask or a toy on a pole. The elephant required the puppeteer to wear a huge head and ears, operate the trunk with a pulley and stomp around in two enormous boots. The elephant poo was the finishing touch, two hessian lumps deposited inelegantly as the elephant exited the stage. The children in the audience couldn’t be more delighted as the two narrators poked and tossed the lumps with great histrionics.

My children declared the dog to be their favourite. His mournful eyes and joyfully quivering tail stole their heart and Jamie’s when he bounded across the stage on the end of two sticks. We were all delighted when Jamie was allowed to take him home. It was a predictable ending but the beauty of this show is its touching simplicity and playful ingenuity. It’s a magic formula that could well inspire a holiday of dress-ups and box-collage splendour.

The Night Zoo  is 10am and 1pm daily until 6th October. Recommended for ages 5+ but 3+ would also enjoy this show.

Read a review of this show by one of Seesaw’s junior critics, Isabel (age 8), here.

Pictured top: Isaac Diamond and Kylie Bywaters transition smoothly from commentators to puppeteers.

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An elephant puppet and a girl puppet being operated by a person.
Children, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

A magical menagerie

Junior review: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, The Night Zoo ·
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, 19 September ·
Review by Isabel Greentree, age 8 ·

The show was called The Night Zoo by Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, directed by Michael Barlow. It was about a girl called Jamie who desperately wanted a pet as a friend but she lived in a busy city in a tall apartment block. Her dreams bring her to the zoo where she meets all sorts of friendly animals.

All sorts of friendly animals: Jamie and the orangutan.

There were meerkats, water birds, thorny devil lizards, a giraffe, an emperor penguin, an orangutan and an elephant. At first the animals completely ignore her, but later the animals come back and try to play with her. When they come back, the emperor penguin does some ridiculous dance moves with his flippers to try and wake Jamie up. When Jamie finally wakes up at the park, the animals each give her a ride or they dance with her.

At the start, the performers (Kylie Bywaters and Isaac Diamond) goofed around on the stage and teased each other. The puppets were amazing and funny. The performers moved with the puppets and they made them look so realistic. I loved how the setting always changed and the building could swing around and become a tree. The animations projected at the top of the stage showed the animals going through the trees after they had walked off the stage.

The music was very entertaining and quite loud. It made me feel like dancing with the animals too.

It was hard to choose my favourite part of the play because it was all so good. Some of the best bits were the meerkats fighting over a treat, the water bird showing off, the penguin trying to wake Jamie, the graceful giraffe, the goofy orangutan and the ginormous elephant. In the end, Jamie finds a true friend to stay with her.

This was a spectacular play which all children will enjoy. Go and see it while you can!

The Night Zoo plays Spare Parts Puppet Theatre in Fremantle until October 6.

Pictured top: Jamie (operated by performer Kylie Bywaters) and the ginormous elephant (Isaac Diamond) in “The Night Zoo”. Below: The goofy orangutan.

A dancing gorilla puppet

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Spare Parts Puppet Theatre Night Zoo
Calendar, Children, October 18, Performing arts, September 18

Theatre: The Night Zoo

22 Sep – 6 Oct @ Spare Parts Puppet Theatre ·
Presented by: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre ·

Jamie lives in a concrete jungle – a fast paced, busy city. From her apartment window, the only natural things she can see are the birds in the sky. She dreams of making friends with animals, but Mum and Dad won’t let her have a pet in their apartment.

As the city sleeps, Jamie dreams of a one-of-a-kind visit to the zoo with meerkat, thorny devil, giraffe, penguin, orangutan and even a baby elephant. But as hard as she tries Jamie can’t get the animals to communicate with her and her dream ends in disappointment.

And then something magical happens – the animals come to find her for a night of dancing and friendship. When the sun comes up the next day there is one more surprise – Jamie meets a homeless dog who’s also looking for a friend…

“What makes the show so memorable is its wonderful storybook-like design and the vast and most impressive range of puppets the company has created for a single show that I can remember.” – Pier Leach, The West Australian.

Duration: 45 mins
10am & 1pm daily
Plus 6.30pm performance on Sept 26 & Oct 5.
No performances Sundays or public holidays.
Perfect for ages 5 and above

Ticket Prices:
General Admission: $25.00
Groups of 4 or more: $24.00
Groups of 10 or more: $23.00
$3. 95 booking fee applies to all bookings

More info:
W: www.sppt.asn.au
E: boxoffice@sppt.asn.au

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