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News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Stories of land and love

Junior review: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, The Farmer’s Daughter ·
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, 4 July ·
Review by Isabel Greentree, age 8 ·

The show was called The Farmer’s Daughter, by Spare Parts Puppet Theatre. It was about a strong relationship between a girl (Daisy Coyle) and her grandfather (Humphrey Bower). It was also about the settlers who came and farmed in Australia. The girl wants to be a boy because she wants to help her father (St John Cowcher) on the farm but he won’t let her.

The play opens with an Aboriginal woman (Ruth Battle) who is interested in the settlers so she hides and spies on them. Then the settlers build a farm and destroy the land. Along the way we meet several animals. I liked the kangaroo best because the actor (Battle) had amazing bouncy shoes. She was good at keeping her balance. I also liked the sheep because it kept stealing the sacks of money, and as soon as they got the money back the sheep would get another sack.

The grandfather tells the girl a story about the fox and the trees, and the fox wants everything the trees have. When the trees refuse, the fox’s hair falls out in fury and then the fox chops all the trees into wood chips. The girl decides to make a better ending, and the fox eventually becomes a man because his tail drooped and came off.  Also, as the girl wishes for rain, a big lightning bolt strikes the dry paddocks and causes a bushfire, and eventually the farmers beat the fire and it begins to rain.

The set had special lighting so the actors could draw in the dirt and project the pictures on the blind. When the family was hunting the kangaroo, the mother (Rebecca Bradley) used her torch to make the background scenery. The music was exciting and helped you understand what was happening. I liked the music in the storm because it felt like something bad was going to happen just before the lightning strike.

My favourite part of the play was the relationship between the girl and her grandfather and how he told her lots of tales and myths.

This play may not be suitable for kids under five because they might get scared by the gun shot sound effects and the loud music. Kids from about eight will really enjoy this play. I think it was fabulous.

The Farmer’s Daughter plays Spare Parts Puppet Theatre until July 20.

Read the “senior review” by Nina Levy here.

Pictured top is Ruth Battle in ‘The Farmer’s Daughter’.




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Farmer with dancer
Children, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Louder than words

Review: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, The Farmer’s Daughter ·
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, 4 July ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

Being a writer, I love words… but I’m also dance-trained and so there’s a special place in my heart for shows that engage in story-telling through movement. In Spare Parts Puppet Theatre’s The Farmer’s Daughter (which premiered as Farm in 2014 ), the script is just one element amongst many used by writer Ian Sinclair to tell a tale about life on a WA Wheatbelt farm, from the point of view of the farmer’s young daughter (the effervescent Daisy Coyle).

Two-way radio conversations between the daughter and her unseen grandfather (voiced with his trademark charisma by Humphrey Bower) punctuate and personalise the play, but we learn as much from an evocative mix of mime, movement and puppetry as we do from the dialogue. And by keeping language minimal and imagery rich, The Farmer’s Daughter speaks as much to the accompanying adults as it does to its target child audience.

Daisy Coyle against the Venetian blind sun that looms large in the sky. Photo: Simon Pynt.

With a Venetian blind sun looming large against stray wisps of cloud, and stark tree trunks dotting the opening set, the vastness and dust-dryness of the Wheatbelt in drought is palpable (and, at the opening show, was a stark contrast to the wet and blustery Fremantle night outside the theatre).

While the story is simple, the devices used to bring it to life – in particular the clever interaction between Graham Walne’s lighting design with Matt McVeigh’s set – kept Wednesday evening’s audience riveted and my young co-critic scribbling furiously in her notebook. A dancer (the lithe and versatile Ruth Battle) portrays various flora, fauna and weather states; a sneaky sheep, a bounding kangaroo, a violent storm, a raging fire. Sand-topped packing crates become a canvas for sand drawings, illuminated by a sweetly retro projector. Small models of the archetypal windmill and water tank become life-size in torch-beam shadows. Lee Buddle’s soundscapes are the final touch, ranging from bush-band humour to cinematic drama, as required.

Under Philip Mitchell’s direction, The Farmer’s Daughter is beautifully and sensitively performed by its cast – St John Cowcher (the father), Rebecca Bradley (the mother), Coyle and Battle. As aforementioned, the story is simple and, at times, quite subtle. Behind me, one young audience member kept up a constant barrage of whispered requests for clarification from their accompanying adult, but this was the exception. The predominant silence in the intimate auditorium suggested that the rest of the children were thoroughly absorbed.

The Farmer’s Daughter plays Spare Parts Puppet Theatre until July 20.

Read a review of The Farmer’s Daughter by junior Seesaw critic, Isabel Greentree, age 8.

Pictured top are St John Cowcher and Ruth Battle in ‘The Farmer’s Daughter. Photo: Simon Pynt.

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The Farmer's Daughter
Calendar, Children, July 18, June 18, Performing arts, Theatre

Theatre: The Farmer’s Daughter

30 June – 20 July @ Spare Parts Puppet Theatre ·
Presented by: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre ·

The Farmer’s Daughter

The Farmer’s Daughter explores the bond between a girl and her grandfather. Audiences will experience a visual celebration of a family’s connection and powerful relationship to their environment.

Inspired by real-life stories from rural Australia, The Farmer’s Daughter tackles themes of change and resilience while celebrating the lives of the people who live and work on the land. Puppets, performers, lights and sound vividly recreate rural Australia and invite a deeper understanding of the families who call it home.

Duration: 50 mins (+10 min Q&A)
Perfect for ages 8 and above (Suitable for 5+)
June 30 – July 20
10am & 1pm daily
Plus 6.30pm performance on July 13, 18, 19 & 20.
No performances Sundays or public holidays.
Booking Essential
Please visit www.sppt.asn.au or telephone 9335 5044
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
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre
1 Short Street, Fremantle
(opposite Fremantle Train Station)

Unbreakable bonds of life on the land

Spare Parts Puppet Theatre will present its acclaimed five-star production celebrating the iconic Australian spirit of life on the land at its home theatre in Fremantle from June 30 for the school holidays and the first week of Term 3.

The Farmer’s Daughter was developed through a unique collaboration between the Merredin farming community and Spare Parts Puppet Theatre during a series of residencies in 2014 that saw the creative team immersed in the daily of lives of a classic wheatbelt town.

Inspired by real life stories, The Farmer’s Daughter explores themes of survival and resilience while celebrating the lives of the people who live and work on the land. The humorous and dramatic story is told through voice over of a CB radio conversation between a grandfather and a granddaughter, who share an unbreakable bond of connection to the land they love.

Through an innovative set, large scale puppetry, a superb soundscape, and vivid lighting, the production captures the atmosphere of the rural lifestyle. Knockabout physical performances by five performers transport you to farming life amid the hilarity of a sheep muster gone wrong or the beauty of a kangaroo in motion. The production was nominated for six Performing Arts WA Awards following its world premiere in 2014.

Artistic Director of Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Philip Mitchell said that The Farmer’s Daughter is a dramatic and humorous story based on real Australian stories and characters.

“The Farmer’s Daughter takes us on an epic journey through the lives of a family – the good times and the bad – with the tears and the laughter,” he said. “At its heart is a tribute to the human spirit that rises above adversity to find the joy in life, the humour in any situation, the beauty of the land, and the strength to go on. The emotional truth of this show will touch every member of your family and remain with you long after you leave the theatre.”

Perfect for ages 8 and above (Suitable for 5+), The Farmer’s Daughter is a special and very Australian experience for the whole family to share. The 50-minute performance (plus a 10 minute Q&A) is presented daily at 10am and 1pm, Monday to Saturday (no shows on Sundays or public holidays). There will also be special 6:30pm twilight performances throughout the season. For details and bookings 24/7 visit www.sppt.asn.au or call 9335 5044 during business hours.

Spare Parts Puppet Theatre is one of the longest running theatre companies in Western Australia and is Australia’s flagship puppetry company. Its extensive annual program includes four metropolitan performance seasons, industry training and puppetry workshops, and an extensive touring program across regional WA and the nation.

The Farmer’s Daughter is proudly presented in partnership with Cash Converters.

More info: www.sppt.asn.au/

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