2021 is going to be a huge year for Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, which makes it appropriate to kick it off with a show about a giant. Fremantle’s premier puppet theatre company celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, which artistic director Philip Mitchell acknowledges is a rare achievement in a city that’s seen so many of its cultural institutions come and go.
“I suppose it feels really exciting because we are glancing back at the same time as looking into the future,” Mr Mitchell told the Herald.
Covid was a real curveball, as the company had a tour to China booked just as the pandemic hit.
But they’ve used the time wisely and rebuilt the foyer of their Short Street theatre, which Mr Mitchell says is part of a deliberate plan to rethink their interaction with audiences.
“Engagement is more important to us than people just coming to see a show.”
The foyer boasts interactive puppetry such as a mini theatre and a flying Pegasus to teach kids about the age-old artform, but they require more than one pair of hands to operate them so kids will have to work together.
This year Spare Parts also celebrates a 30-year sponsorship with Healthway, and Mr Mitchell says the support from the WA government – as opposed to the indifference to arts shown under the Morrison federal government – had been crucial to their success.
“If it was not for the WA government we would not be here,” he said.
The Chook has also heard whispers that a major state grant to upgrade the theatre is also in the pipeline, but Mr Mitchell said he couldn’t comment.
Spare Parts kicks off its big year with the big comedy Beanstalk, by local performer Sam Longley.
Unsurprisingly given his long, lanky frame, it’s a sympathetic retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk from the giant’s perspective.
Kids are invited into the giant’s magical kitchen to meet a cast of rambunctious puppets made from vegetables as Brian the giant tells of what really happened when the ‘rascal’ Jack came raiding.
Mr Mitchell says it was a challenge getting the show ready under Covid rules, but it was a rewarding experience.
The 50-minute show runs Jan 11 – 30, Mon to Sat with shows at 10am and 1pm and special 6.30pm twilight performances on Fridays.
Book online at http://www.sppt.asn.au