Image of car at beachside with things piled on roof
Calendar, Children, Immersive Experience, October 19, September 19

Children: On Our Beach

28 Sep – 12 Oct @ Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Fremantle ·
Presented by Spare Parts Puppet Theatre ·

A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.” John Lennon

You are invited with us and Fomo the Dog, on a shoes off, hands on,  never before experienced holiday to a very special beach. Once you have cleared the serious identification business and passed the pest control border you will be straight into the pre-departure fun and games – we recommend you arrive early to get some gnarly selfies! It is your chance to ride a surf board, be part of sculptures by the sea, play a game of beach volleyball and swim in a sea of shimmering balls.

The show is not seated, so be prepared to enjoy, participate if you want to and be transported to an imaginary beach where strangers become friends.

Duration: 50 mins
Perfect for 5+ but suitable for everyone!

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

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Captivating creatures

Junior review: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Fox ⋅
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Fremantle, July 6 ⋅
Review by Bethany Stopher (age 12) ⋅

Based on the book by Margaret Wild, Fox is a beautiful show that incorporates puppetry into dancing with ease.

As the lights dimmed we could see the shadow of two trees being held up by performers. The lights flashed to represent lightning and suddenly we could spot orange silk unfurling from the sides of the stage. The magpie (played by Gala Shevtsov) flew around the stage, twittering loudly, until the fire snatched away one of her wings.

Right from the start Fox was captivating. The performers were very convincing, acting exactly like the creature they were portraying. Magpie was very quick on her feet, emitting high-pitched wails that sounded very similar to the actual bird. Dog (played by Scott Galbraith) was very boisterous, making the little kids laugh with his antics and scratching. Fox (played by Rachel Arianne Ogle) was a very sinister character with a vicious snarl and twisting body.

Whilst simple, the scenery was also very effective. At the back of the stage there was a sheet used to project things on. Most of the time it was just a plain colour or pattern but sometimes they were illustrations from the book, which I found a nice link to the source material. The sheet was moved from backstage in certain scenes, which made a rippling effect or the ripples of water dropping on a pond.

The lights (controlled by Graham Walne) and music also had a big impact on the emotions of the story; when the characters were happy, the lighting was warm and the music upbeat. When the story turned unpleasant the colours were stark and the music intense.

“Puppetry involves giving life to things that don’t have life in themselves,” director Michael Barlow stated at the Q&A session after the show. It was interesting how many of the children had questions for the cast, which shows how involved they were in the experience.

One thing that I particularly liked was that use of the narration from the book as a voiceover. If anything got too scary for younger children it reminded them of the fact that it was a story and nothing terrible was actually happening. Although the show stuck to the storyline of the picture book, the depth of the emotions and meaning were thoroughly explored. This made it a very enjoyable experience.

The puppets, made by Leon Hendroff, are truly works of art. They added so much to the performance as the actors became them and gave them a personality. I especially admired the fox puppet, a fox head perched on the hand while vibrant silk draped over her arms along a piece of wire. This gave a very life-like effect.

Overall, I was very impressed with the show. It is an emotional, inspiring story that cleverly incorporates dance. The actors were brilliant, the puppets amazing.  What more could you want? Definitely a must see for the holidays.

Fox continues until July 20.

Pictured top: Dog (Scott Galbraith) and Magpie (Gala Shevtsov) are playful friends. Photo:Simon Pynt.

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Children, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Puppetry and dance perfect partners

Review: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Fox ⋅
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Fremantle, July 6 ⋅
Review by Rosalind Appleby ⋅

“There are no words”, my 6 year old whispers, without taking her eyes from the stage.

A storm and then a bushfire raged across the stage, leaving a magpie wounded and crying. We watched as a dog befriended the magpie and then a fox seduced her.

Spare Parts Puppet Theatre were using dancers, puppets and a stunning creative design to convey Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks’ book Fox. There were very few words, and we didn’t need them.

Michael Barlow’s production (from 2015), is one of the most profound and beautiful I’ve seen from Spare Parts; a reminder that masterful storytelling doesn’t need words to communicate the deep truths of life.

My daughter loved Magpie, danced by Gala Shevtsov with an alert fragility, her heart torn between her loyalty to Dog and her aching desire to feel the wind in her wings. My son loved Dog, danced by Scott Galbraith with big-hearted exuberance. And Rachel Arianne Ogle’s Fox was utterly entrancing with a rippling silk tail that flickered dangerously like fire. Ogle conveyed the “smell of rage and envy and loneliness” that hung about Fox with her taut leaps and sharp contortions.

Key to their successful character portrayal is the blend of puppetry and choreography (Jacob Lehrer) and the exquisite design (Leon Hendroff) and costumes (Nicole Marrington and Sheridan Savage). Graham Walne’s lighting and projections convey the heat of fire and jealousy, the calmness of water and trust and the tumult of storms and grief. The metaphors are reinforced by Lee Buddle’s sound track which includes the sounds of smashed glass and distorted electric guitar (Fox), the friendly fun of a folk band (Magpie and Fox) and the serenity of a flute and rain soundscape.

The visual and aural metaphors carried the story deep into our hearts. My junior critics identified strongly with the characters and engaged in lengthy discussion afterwards. They felt the show had an undercurrent of sadness and fear. But the exquisite beauty and playfulness of the dancers kept a finely honed emotional balance. This was one of the best children’s theatre productions we’ve seen.

Fox continues until July 20.

Read a review of Fox by junior critic Bethany Stopher (age 12) here.

Pictured top: Rachel Arianne Ogle is utterly entrancing as Fox. Photo: Simon Pynt.

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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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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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