Photos – Simon Pynt
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre isn’t afraid to tackle the big subjects. Their current production, a stage adaptation by Peta Murray of Tim Winton’s short novel Blueback, takes a deep dive into the subjects of death, ecology and environmental protection. Is it too much for kids to handle? Not a chance.
As always, Spare Parts is gentle in its presentation of these challenging subjects in Blueback. Director Philip Mitchell’s approach is straightforward but creatively expressed, so that these challenging issues are handled with appropriate care, but in a way that sparks the imagination. Not everything is spelled out for its audience, whether it be for the adult contingent or the under 18 set, but it doesn’t need to be. Spare Parts realises that kids understand far more than we often give them credit for, and we don’t always need to shield them from the darker shades of life. They also realise that adults could use gentle reminders of the important things, never forgetting that the show needs to engage the grown-ups as well as the kids.
Blueback tells the story of a young boy named Abel and his mother as they grow older in fictional Longboat Bay. Abel gets to know a blue groper, which he and his mother name Blueback; as Abel grows older, he and the fish seem to come to an understanding despite the gulf between their species. He wonders to himself how long Blueback has been alive, and what kinds of things the fish has seen come and go in his time.
Pondering this question enables the boy to come to an understanding about life and death, and he goes on to make the study of the sea his mission as an adult. His mother stays at Longboat Bay, watching subtle changes in the water’s ecology, fretting about overfishing by a new abalone fisherman, fending off developers, and eventually persuading the government to put the area under protection.
The show lays a good framework for raising kids’ awareness of the environmental issues that we face in the 21st century while it entertains. The puppets, built by Greg Methe, set pieces designed by Hanna Parssinen, and props are all in good hands with performers Bec Bradley and St John Cowcher, who shared the Spare Parts stage in last year’s Farm. They’re agile and fluid, which is a necessity when playing an eel or a fish. There are a few moments of humour, but this is mostly a bittersweet piece that encourages reflection and inquiry. It serves as a gentle warning to take care of our coastline and fight for the preservation of its health and unique beauty.
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre presents
by Tim Winton | adapted by Peta Murray
Director Philip Mitchell
Venue: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre | 1 Short Street, Fremantle (opposite train station)
Dates: July 4 – 18, 2015
Times: Monday to Saturday 10am and 1pm daily (no shows Sundays or Public Holidays) and two evening performances at 6.30pm on Wed July 8 and Fri July 17.
Tickets: $20 – $24
Duration: 50 minutes
Bookings: www.sppt.asn.au | 9335 5044
Recommended for ages 5 and above