This bunny is the real deal

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Weekly Life - Tanya MacNaughton

THE Vel­veteen Rab­bit has been one of artis­tic direc­tor Philip Mitchell’s favourite shows in the Spare Parts Pup­pet Theatre reper­toire since first pre­sented by the pup­pet com­pany in 2005.

“I think it goes to the heart of what pup­petry is,” Mitchell said.

“The show is about a pup­peteer in­vest­ing enough life in a pup­pet to make it real; I just think that’s what pup­petry is about.

“We sit in this dark box, watch­ing this show and for that 50 min­utes, we’re be­liev­ing all those toys are ac­tu­ally alive.

“It’s ab­so­lutely mag­i­cal and there’s some­thing so sat­is­fy­ing to di­rect a show where you emo­tion­ally en­gage in it, which of course then cre­ates em­pa­thy.

“As a direc­tor, that’s what you want; you want the au­di­ence to walk out hav­ing felt some­thing.”

Based on Margery Wil­liams’ 1922 chil­dren’s book, the pro­duc­tion was adapted by Greg Lis­saman and fol­lows the story of a boy and his toy rab­bit, who both be­lieve the rab­bit is real.

“I’m a to­tal Toy Story fan and it is the book that in­spired Toy Story,” Mitchell said. “We cap­ture the main essence of the story and the main char­ac­ters and we in­tro­duce the char­ac­ter Ban­dito who is the toy who won’t let him­self be loved.

“The pin­na­cle of the story is that the boy gets scar­let fever and ev­ery­thing has to be burnt; I think that’s the big­gest leap for a mod­ern child be­cause we don’t have to burn things any­more.

“It’s prob­a­bly the only thing in the show that sits in the early last-cen­tury world, oth­er­wise it’s pretty time­less.”

Mitchell said de­signer Zoe Atkin­son had re­pur­posed many of the pup­pets to look like ev­ery­day toys, but they still had pup­petry con­trols.

The fairy is a Pel­ham pup­pet, a form of pup­pets made in Eng­land dur­ing the 1940s and ’50s, while the real rab­bits are rod pup­pets.

“Our 2017 pro­gram also has The Ar­rival (Shaun Tan) in it and I think this sits in the same sort of cat­e­gory, where an adult and a child get equally as much en­joy­ment out of it,” Mitchell said.

“While The Vel­veteen Rab­bit is a book for young peo­ple, it’s a story that can be ap­pre­ci­ated by all.”

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