A party for the senses

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Health -

SPARE Parts Puppet Theatre has al­ways been a com­pany at the fore­front of cre­ativ­ity, so when the op­tion came to stage a world pre­miere of an­other Shaun Tan book, Rules of Sum­mer, in­stead of pre­sent­ing a sim­ple story, it upped the ante.

“We had the idea of break­ing the fourth wall and cre­at­ing a sen­sory world both in the au­di­to­rium and on stage, want­ing some­thing that con­nected to an au­di­ence in a dif­fer­ent way,” di­rec­tor Philip Mitchell said.

“The book doesn’t ac­tu­ally have a sto­ry­line and it’s a series of rules. It was quite a chal­lenge at first to not just fall into do­ing a sim­ple story but to be true to the way Shaun has con­structed these series of rules.

“The story is about the re­la­tion­ship of these two young boys and how like in any re­la­tion­ship, whether it be kids or adults, there are times where there’s things that pull us apart and oth­ers that draw us to­gether. It was that premise of to­geth­er­ness and apart that we wanted to ex­plore.

“We en­rol the au­di­ence from the younger brother’s per­spec­tive and it’s his emo­tional jour­ney the au­di­ence will ex­pe­ri­ence phys­i­cally with smells, taste and thou­sands of bub­bles through the air. It’ll be vis­ually spec­tac­u­lar and ex­hil­a­rat­ing.”

Mitchell said the in­ter­ac­tive na­ture of the pro­duc­tion was prov­ing mys­te­ri­ous dur­ing rehearsals be­cause they did not know ex­actly how au­di­ences would re­act.

“It’s to­tally new ter­ri­tory for us be­cause we’ve never done any­thing like this be­fore,” he said.

“It’s ex­cit­ing and mak­ing us a lit­tle ner­vous while we take pup­petry into a whole new world.”

Rules of Sum­mer fea­tures more than 100 puppets in a pa­rade of Tan’s crazy an­i­mal and robot cre­ations.

De­spite hav­ing the task of get­ting the puppets from SPPT’S re­hearsal room in Fre­man­tle to Dol­phin Theatre at UWA for an off­site sea­son while ren­o­va­tions are be­ing done (the com­pany will be back in Fre­man­tle for its sum­mer sea­son), Mitchell said the great­est chal­lenge had been per­fect­ing the im­mer­sive sense of smell.

“We’ve been play­ing with the idea of smell and how you safely in­fuse a theatre with scent,” he said.

“How do you have smell on cue when you want it? Then how do you dis­perse it be­fore the next au­di­ence comes in? We’re still play­ing with that and had some pretty dis­as­trous at­tempts so far.

“We were try­ing to cre­ate the smell of straw­ber­ries be­cause there’s an im­age in the book of the two boys in a gi­ant land­scape of fruit. The straw­ber­ries ended up smelling more like a marsh­mal­low candy.

“It seems like or­ange is one of the best scents in the fruit range in­stead.

“And if you’re lucky, you’ll get to taste some­thing too.”

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