SPARE PARTS Puppet Theatre looks to have found a temporary home for its productions at Claremont Showgrounds.But artistic director Phillip Mitchell says their big hope remains for the WA government to rebuild the closed theatre on Short Street, just across the road from the Fremantle Train Station.
“We were exploring where we could perform our new work Show Day, which premiered in Albany,” Mr Mitchell said.
“So we went to the Royal Agricultural Society and said we were interested in performing in Pavilion 1, and they said ‘we thought you would be interested in our theatre’,” Mr Mitchell said.
Surprised to find Gate One Theatre tucked amongst the Showgrounds’ sprawling pavilions, he’s now hopeful to get Show Day in soon and follow it up with a repeat season of their popular show Blueback in July.
“The decision is with the state government for a temporary relocation to allow the demolition of our theatre here, pending a review of a business case for a replacement,” Mr Mitchell said.
He says Spare Parts is also involved in discussions floating around about a performing arts centre for Fremantle, perhaps as part of Victoria Quay’s activation, while Cockburn council has also offered some teasers about its own plans for its own version.
Spare Parts was even offered free use of Central Park’s top floor in the Perth CBD for its offices, part of the outporing of support he says they received when the main theatre was deemed unsafe for use.
“But we’ve been here for 40 years and are part of the cultural fabric of the city; we have built a community, and we still hope they will demolish the old theatre and rebuild, so we may be calling on the community for support to help make our case.”
Mr Mitchell says they’d be open to discussing a new shared facility, but says that they’re quite rare for an arts organisation in that they generate up to 70 per cent of their revenue from the venue, so any sharing arrangements could potentially undermine their sustainability.
They’re also hoping to expand a fledgling seniors’ program and their youngsters programs such as Puppet Playtime, which is aimed at kids up to five years old and launched this week courtesy of support from the Minderoo Foundation.
Mr Mitchell said it had been hard to get the state government interested in supporting Puppet Playtime, as its education focus was on older ages, but around the world the benefits of play-based learning in the early years was being recognised as a key element in developing a range of skills.
In Puppet Playtime, youngsters attend with a parent, grandparent or carer who help them explore “story stones” which have prompts for their own tales, interactive drawing boxes and then making a simple puppet.
“It’s about being able to listen and then make something and create something and then they go back and retell that story with that experience,” he explains about how they weave classic children’s books into the workshop.
“Hopefully it will be scalable to take it to the regiona and to get it into community centres and libraries,” Mr Mitchells said.
He’s also hoping it will also create a new pathway to get young kids into seeing Spare Parts’ other shows, saying they usually come along because of an older sibling.
To find out more about Puppet Playtime or Spare Parts (finally) upcoming shows, head to http://www.sppt.asn.au
by STEVE GRANT