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REVIEW | The Velveteen Rabbit | 100 years of pure enchantment

Review | Laura Money

The Velveteen Rabbit has been delighting children for one hundred years firstly through Margery Williams‘ enchanting picture book and adapted for Spare Parts Puppet Theatre by Greg Lissaman in a stunning production that continues to charm audiences. Lissaman distills the essence of the unique story and gives it a modern twist that is able to be both contemporary and timeless – powerful writing indeed. Featuring stunning design by Zoe Atkinson, a sweeping score by Lee Buddle featuring some classic works, and passionate performances The Velveteen Rabbit is a simply beautiful production that should remain on stages constantly and is deserving of its place in Spare Parts Puppet Theatre’s repertoire.

Atkinson’s set design is highly memorable – the stage is covered where curtains would traditionally be and black panels slide across to create a shadow puppet or toy theatre effect. This focusses attention on the smaller scale of the toy’s world where they are the lead characters – puppeteers wearing camouflage-like suits that blend in with the wallpaper or background. Director Philip Mitchell‘s style works in concert with Atkinson’s cleverly rendered nursery and hidden shrubbery realm, he uses different perspectives to great effect and with the panels create a storybook come to life. Along with Graham Walne‘s clever lighting design, the backgrounds take on a surreal quality. Performers Michael Barlow, Rebecca Bradley, Nick Pages-Oliver and Louis Spencer are all amazing, imbuing the already expressive puppets by Jiri Zmitko with humanity and distinct personalities. From the hilarious Bandito to the stoic and wise Horse each character comes to life with such vibrancy there is genuine heartbreak when something sinister befalls them. Bradley absolutely shines as both the little boy and the titular Velveteen Rabbit. The naiveite and pure essence of the rabbit is palpable as Bradley stuffs her heart and soul into the little puppet.

Spare Parts Puppet Theatre are leaders in charming children’s theatre for a reason. This stunning production of The Velveteen Rabbit is an enduring example of their ability to provide enchantment and pathos to children’s entertainment without losing engagement. This production is remarkably simple – creating ingenious perspectives (a vertical bed with large versions of the puppet’s heads framing the tableau is a brilliant moment), using existing classical music to render the scale of the toy’s world epic, and passionate performers who bring the charming characters to life – The Velveteen Rabbit embodies hope and love and it’s a top pick for this school holidays and many more to come.

The Velveteen Rabbit is enchanting audiences at The Spare Parts Puppet Theatre this school holidays until 23rd April 2022. TICKETS

The Fourth Wall acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land we engage in storytelling on – the Wadjhuk people of the Noongar nation. We pay respects to their elders past, present, and emerging.

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REVIEW | Miss Lily’s Fabulous Feather Boa | School holidays just got more entertaining!

Review | Laura Money

Going to Spare Parts Puppet Theatre is always a magical experience but things have become decidedly more fabulous this school holidays as they present Miss Lily’s Fabulous Feather Boa. Based on the wonderful picture book by Margaret Wild with illustrations by Kerry Argent the play brings the characters to life – slinking, running, and tentatively leaping off the page onto the stage in this delightful adaptation. The show takes all of the charming elements of the beloved book, much to the delight of all in a truly memorable and entertaining show that appeals to those seeking wonder, humour, and technical prowess. It’s simply wonderful.

The Spare Parts stage is transformed in to a tropical paradise with a stunning moveable set by Iona McAuley (designer) complete with beaded doorway and frangipani garlands and populated by the signature charming puppetry Spare Parts is renowned for. Performers Cezera Critti-Schnaars, Ming Yang Lim and Tristan McInnes bring out the vibrancy of Sanjiva Margio and Lyndell Darch‘s stunning puppets with grace and fun – they don headpieces as the hilarious Koala and Wombat families allowing for funny physical humour. McInnes tackles the huge puppet of Miss Lily and deftly maneuvers her large frame with the grace and aplomb of the stunningly fabulous character, and Critti-Schnaars brings heart and tenderness to The Last Potoroo, gently moving her tiny and adorable puppet across the stage in her big adventure.

This production does a wonderful job of showing not telling as it cleverly depicts the cricket mad Koalas in direct contrast to the footy loving Wombats, the outrageous tango-dancing Miss Lily and of course the palpable sorrow of The Last Potoroo. McInnes’ Miss Lily is fabulously flamboyant, cavorting about the stage with humour and pizzazz. It crackles with subtext and wit as The Last Potoroo warily eyes Miss Lily’s big sharp teeth at dinner time, quaking after being told she only eats ‘little things’ which elicits a palpable gulp then chuckle of relief at the offering of fish and chips! I cannot overstate how clever and funny this piece is – the story arc of the Wombat Dad discovering his talent and passion for badminton is played subtly but is important for children to see they can be who they are even with the pressures to conform. The Last Potoroo’s morals are shaken in a perfectly thrilling nightmare sequence that Critti-Schnaars brings vulnerability and charm alongside the spectacular antics of the feather boa and deliciously creepy lighting by Karen Cook.

Everything about Miss Lily’s Fabulous Feather Boa speaks to the heart. It takes big concepts such as self-identity, the morals of stealing, self-expression, loneliness, and community, and exhibits them through visual cues, comedy, and a stunning musical curation by Lee Buddle. Michael Barlow‘s direction wholly encompasses the spirit of the story with its laid back holiday vibe and seamless transition into multiple characters. There is a poignancy felt in the loneliness of The Last Potoroo and pure joy ripples through the audience in the show’s heartwarming conclusion. Make sure you get to Miss Lily’s Tropical Holiday House and treat yourself to a rip-roaring, Aussie flavoured hour of fun!

You can get your tickets to Miss Lily’s HERE and can even purchase the original book in a package!

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REVIEW: Beanstalk gives the giant his due in this heartfelt retelling

Review | Laura Money

Everyone knows the story Brian the cloud giant, right? You know, the one where an innocent giant anchors his beanstalk to the ground and is visited by a bratty little boy named Jack who steals everything from him in one fell swoop? If you’re more familiar with the story that sympathises with Jack, then it’s time to broaden your horizons with Beanstalk. Writer and performer, Sam Longley takes the (for some reason) beloved tale of Jack and flips it on its head. Beanstalk is a compassionate rendering of a moralistic tale that subverts the norm and emphasises new morals – it’s perfect for children (and adults) navigating the 21st century but still elicits the charm of a fairy-tale.

Director Phillip Mitchell has created a pared back show for a simplified tale. Longley manipulates everyday foodstuffs rather than puppets – showing that creativity can really be found anywhere – even the dinner table. Longley begins by chopping up his veggies and making dinner. As he does so, he explains who he is – a cloud giant, one who creates clouds – and begins the tale of his encounters with Jack – the one groundling he really can’t stand. Deftly carving eyes into a loaf of bread, Longley turns the loaf into Jack – it’s pure poetry, Longley’s incredible skill combined with the power of imagination really brings loaf Jack to life.

There are moments of pure wonder – Bryan Woltjen and Kristie Smith – set and lighting designers respectively, create breathtaking clouds and volcanoes. The set bristles with possibilities and Longley turns science and technology into the reverence it deserves – combined with the magic of storytelling the science becomes magical as Longley plucks clouds from the air and keeps them in jars for all to see. Tackling perceptions and injustice, Beanstalk gently encourages the audience to see other people’s point of view and not judge a book by its cover. It’s an intelligent and imaginative approach to modernising a work.

Longley is charming and hilarious – he gets the kids onside with silly humour and slapstick, and the adults with ridiculously so-bad-they’re-good puns. He’s the ultimate performer, engaging, funny, and self-aware. The whole show is whip-smart and utterly charming, proving that sometimes bigger really is better!

Beanstalk is on at Spare Parts Puppet Theatre until 30 January 2021, you can get your tickets HERE

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Go on an interstellar adventure this school holidays with The Little Prince

Review | Laura Money

Take the children on a beautiful journey through time and space with this classic tale re-imagined through the magical lens of Spare Parts Puppet Theatre. In a charming rendition, this two-hander is perfectly rendered, as wooden boxes unfold delightfully before your eyes, providing a treasure trove of sets and puppets reminiscent of the best kind of costume box. Shane Adamczak and Kylie Bywaters breathe life into a timeless character, curiosity emblazoned on their faces as they animate all the characters. Bywaters’ excitement is palpable as she reverently opens an innocuous-looking box that allows The Little Prince to spring forth and begin his adventure.

The asethetic is stunning. Vaudevillian backdrops with areas for heads and hands to cheekily pop through, crates stacking on top of each other that resemble backstage of a 19th century magic act, and an aeroplane made of crates that fold with the ease of a paper plane all create a wondrous landscape for The Little Prince to explore. Ok, the story is a little old-fashioned, so some of the language is a bit irrelevant now, but the themes of love, camaraderie, exploration, and a burning desire to discover and do are completely timeless. Adamczak is a Perth treasure – his stunning soundtrack is instantly hummable and accompanies the flying scenes with a simple beauty. He also acts as every other character, to hilarious effect.

The Little Prince is a little gem. It fosters a sense of charm, and encourages children to be kind and brave. It sparks the imagination from the very beginning, and proves that children can understand big concepts, and that adults should stop and smell the roses – after all, without caterpillars we would never have butterflies.

 

WHEN: 13th January – 3rd February 2020 | 10:00am & 1:00pm (plus some twilight shows)

WHERE: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre | FREMANTLE | 1 Short Street, Pioneer Park

INFO:  Tickets $23 – $25 | Duration 45m | Suitable all ages, perfect 5+ | Puppetry effects

TICKETS:  https://sa2.seatadvisor.com/sabo/servlets/TicketRequest?&presenter=AUPUPPET&event=TLP20&tck=true

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REVIEW: On Our Beach

Are you ready to go to the beach this school holidays? Spare Parts Puppet Theatre welcome you to a fun new interactive show – On Our Beach and prove that they are the peak of children’s entertainment in Perth. So, slip on your thongs, slop off your worries and slap on a smile because you’re invited to the best beach party in Perth!

On Our Beach takes children and the young at heart on an interactive journey to the beach – but it’s unlike any beach you’ve ever been to before! Your journey begins with the security check-ins where you draw your own passport pictures and are scanned to see how nice you are! After that it’s a few happy snaps and some pre-beach activities until it’s time to kick off your shoes and head to the shore. There are plenty of fun feelings between your toes, so make sure you take off your socks as well!

Once you spread your towel and relax, the Spare Parts crew gently guide you into their world. It’s relaxing – there are velvet cushions and soothing acoustic guitar – light play and stunning silken puppets, flowing above a mesmerised crowd. The charm of the work lies in the detail and feeling evoked by simple, yet clever techniques. There’s not a creepy marionette in sight – instead brilliantly designed and choreographed pieces that all relate to one aspect of the Aussie beach or another. From underwater marvels to barbecues and flies, from cheeky dogs to playing catch, and swimming within the flags, it embodies the quintessential beach experience.

All of the puppeteers are enthusiastic and friendly – they really know how to get a diverse age range of children to interact and pay attention. There are activities and dances for the children to do – love a bit of human volleyball – and many surprises too. The sense of humour and fun that exudes from the puppeteers know no bounds and children delight in getting involved in an experience that is at once familiar and slightly twisted up but one thing is for sure – it’s all fun. So, head on down to the beach and dip more than your toe into the water – you’ll play, dance, create, and even get serenaded by the swimming sirens of the sea!

WHEN: 28th September – 12th October 2019 | 11am & 1pm

WHERE: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre | 1 Short Street, FREMANTLE

INFO: Tickets $23+ booking fee | Duration 50m | Suitable ages 5+ (not really for babies/toddlers) | Will be asked to remove shoes | Interactive theatre

LINK: http://www.sppt.asn.au/events/on-our-beach/

100 SPPT The Beach 190919 JWyld