Many lay­ered process

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Stage -

SIT­TING in the crowd at a Spare Parts Pup­pet Theatre (SPPT) pro­duc­tion, few can imag­ine just how much work goes into cre­at­ing the most es­sen­tial part of their sto­ries: the pup­pets them­selves.

Work starts on a pro­duc­tion as many as 18 months be­fore it first hits the stage with brain­storm­ing over how the pup­pets will be used, their re­la­tion­ship to the per­form­ers, and their de­sign and look.

SPPT as­so­ciate di­rec­tor Michael Bar­low said the ap­proach dif­fered with ev­ery new pro­duc­tion.

“Ev­ery pro­duc­tion is dif­fer­ent and ev­ery pup­pet is dif­fer­ent,” he said.

“Some re­quire weeks of work to cre­ate while other sim­pler pup­pets may be made in as lit­tle as a few days. The de­ci­sions about the way in which a pup­pet will move (and be moved) can de­ter­mine the ma­te­ri­als that are used to make it and this in turn de­ter­mines which artists will be needed to con­struct it.

“For ex­am­ple, a pup­pet made of foam might take up to a week for its parts to be shaped be­fore it can be as­sem­bled and then a fur­ther pe­riod in which a fab­ric artist makes the cloth cov­er­ing that 'skins' it.”

It can be a busy, hands-on process, with a show like TheNight Zoo need­ing sev­eral large pup­pets and a num­ber of smaller ones. At other times a more in­tri­cate touch is needed, such as with the two hand-carved pup­pets at the cen­tre of TheLit­tlePrince.

“The process of build­ing pup­pets, props and sets can take a cou­ple of months and usu­ally hap­pens in our work­shop, and we have ev­ery­thing com­pleted in time to go into re­hearsals,” Bar­low said.

“A pup­pet isn't re­ally com­plete, how­ever, un­til it comes to life with an au­di­ence.

“Un­til then it might be a beau­ti­ful, skil­fully-made ob­ject, but a pup­pet's pur­pose is to come to life and for that it needs the au­di­ence.”

TheLit­tlePrince will go on a na­tional tour from May 23 to Au­gust 19. Visit

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