PUPPETEER ENJOYS CLOWNING AROUND

Hills Gazette (Kalamunda) - - RESIDENTIAL - Tanya MacNaughton

JEFF Achtem is more at home in a room of clowns than with a room of pup­peteers, de­spite be­ing the artis­tic di­rec­tor of Bunk Pup­pets.

“A lot of peo­ple, when they think of shadow pup­petry, get these images in their head that maybe my mum or dad was a fa­mous puppeteer or I grew up in In­done­sia,” Achtem said.

“I came in to pup­petry quite late. I started clowning as I left school and was per­form­ing a lot, in ev­ery­thing from street the­atre fes­ti­vals to cor­po­rate gigs, just find­ing and learn­ing about per­form­ing non-ver­bally.

“A clown has to do some­thing on stage, ei­ther jug­gle or play mu­sic or some­thing, and it usu­ally goes ter­ri­bly wrong, which is the essence of a clown show; I was drawn to the idea of a clown do­ing a pup­pet show.”

Cana­dian Achtem moved to Aus­tralia a decade ago af­ter he “gelled with Mel­bourne’s cre­ative arts scene”.

“It was a pe­riod in my life where I just went where the wind blew me,” he said. “I was do­ing a lot of per­form­ing and getting the oc­ca­sional gig in Aus­tralia and soon stopped com­ing on tem­po­rary visas and started com­ing on more per­ma­nent visas.”

He started Bunk Pup­pets four years ago, cre­at­ing an as­so­ci­a­tion of free­lance per­form­ers, mak­ers and artists, and will bring his one­man show Swamp Juice to Awe­some

In­ter­na­tional Arts Fes­ti­val for Bright Young Things in Oc­to­ber.

“Swamp Juice is very much this live car­toon aes­thetic, so we have this very sim­ple plot of a man in a swamp en­coun­ter­ing all these crea­tures,” Achtem said.

“I don’t want to give too much away but it spi­rals out of con­trol and be­comes this big ca­coph­ony of char­ac­ters chas­ing af­ter him.

It’s not Mac­beth, it’s not a plot­driven piece, but more about the sim­plic­ity and beauty of us­ing sim­ple ob­jects to make these char­ac­ters re­ally come alive and in­ter­act in the swamp. And just when the ac­tion is peak­ing, every­one gets glasses and it goes into 3D.”

Achtem said the show was suit­able for au­di­ences seven years and older and de­manded a level of will­ing­ness to ex­pe­ri­ence on be­half of the au­di­ence.

“This def­i­nitely isn’t Dora the Ex­plorer,” he said.

“If you have to give a pop cul­ture ref­er­ence, it’s sort of South Park meets Dr. Seuss in a Looney Tunes world. It ticks those boxes with a Mr Bean silli­ness.”

Puppeteer Jeff Achtem.

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