Many layered process
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 www.sppt.asn.au.