The World Puppetry Festival is held only once in the world, every four years. Just like the Olympics, cities bid for the right to host the event.
Russia, Switzerland and Perth fought it out last time with Australia coming up trumps.
And so begins ten days of chaos as 584 puppeteers and over 10 000 puppets descend on Perth, Western Australia for a festival of a lifetime. Every hotel is fully booked; every viable venue is taken and over a hundred shows are programmed in one hellish schedule.
At the centre of it all is madly devoted puppeteer, Philip Mitchell, the creative director of the festival. It was Philip who curated the program and he’s responsible for the creative success, or failure of the festival – as well as the technical reality of bringing so many shows to life.
We follow a one woman show with ten stages revolving around her body and a penchant for the dark side. Spare Parts Puppet Theatre build a theatre made entirely out of shoe boxes on the spot.
Cabaret Decadanse redefine sexy as the lithe Serge and Enock, bring their transvestites, raunchy dancers and cabaret singers to life in an unholy merging of the human dancing body and puppet creation.
Amidst the chaos, an attempt at establishing a new world record is on. The call has been put out world wide for puppets and the postal system can hardly handle the deluge pouring in through the door from all over the world. The race is on to get the greatest number of puppets all in the same place at the same time. Katherine McClean, Million Puppet Project Manager has more than her hands full.
Meanwhile, Woyzeck, South Africa’s most famous performance is resurrected in Perth. The show is directed by well known artist William Kentridge, whose charcoal drawings are an animated background for a raw and sometimes savage performance from his African troupe with their large wooden puppets.
Stephan from Belgium reinacts Shakespears’s Richard the Third, with the butchery taking place in the most literal sense. Stephan’s puppets are various cuts of beef, from steaks to roasts with kebabs and mince makers brought into devastating effect.
Audience members are right to feel nervous when they are handed a plastic apron as they take their seat. Australia’s Men of Steel are a fearsome trio, bringing anything to life with an alarming and ferocious dexterity. Cans of dog food become rabid destroyers with a hunting cos lettuce and a broccoli forest in the mix. Their motto – ‘the further we can throw it the better’. Hilarity follows in a whirlwind blaze of food and objects that’s never quite been done like this before.
And Australia’s most well loved puppeteer, Richard Bradshaw performs his famous Bradshaw’s Shadows with such divine simplicity it steals the show.
At the end of the day Philip is left with resounding applause still ringing in his ears and Perth reels in the aftermath of the biggest puppetry event ever attempted in the southern hemisphere.
Truly Madly Puppetry – a one hour documentary giving an inside look at the adult puppet world and the boundaries it likes to push. Prepare yourself….
"We welcome the return of the impeccable Who Do You Think You Are?"
"A documentary that confronts, questions and raises many issues:medical ethics,personal choice and funding priorities - but none more so than the rights of the disabled, and of a mother and father."
"… is full of emotion,heartache,frustration and determination."
"… essentially a story of courage"
‘The filmmaker creates a perceptive, multilayered understanding of the young refugees’ experiences’
‘It is hard to remain dry-eyed as the schools multicultural soccer team sings Advance Australia Fair in the bus home from a match.'
"... already acknowledged as the world's most exciting visual and physical theatre company...the reason to go and see Stalker is the way they marry jaw dropping spectacle with real purpose."
"This is engaging and entertaining telly that also has something important to say"
"Set in WA, this is one reality series we all should watch."
"Setting this documentary apart…is the effort it makes to humanise the poachers and explain the circumstances which compels them to hunt."
"A dose of Reality TV without the hype"
"All three groups of fishermen feature in Lobster Tales, an ABC documentary that will change the way you look at these delicious crustaceans forever."
“The great achievement of Lobster Tales, a delightfully oddball WA-made documentary on the lucrative local crayfish industry ... strikes such a lovely balance between the lobsters and fishermen that it’s more like a well-wrought tragi-comedy than a traditional nature doco"
“Even for non-lobster-lovers, this quirky feature provides plenty of interest ... the highlight is the underwater photography by Leighton de Barros which is up-close and stunning."
"shows ordinary people doing extraordinary things ... the program usues the magic of TV to bring an important WA story to life"
“Though it’s not easy to watch a widow finally open up about her murdered husband (nor is it comfortable watching local Iraqis genuinely praise Saddam Hussein), Salam Father is yet another reason why the terms "SBS" and "quality documentary" fit like a hand in glove."
“A sense of reconciliation emerges in the program and there's considerable poignancy as elements of a family torn apart by war, politics and circumstance are reunited…"
“This is the compelling story of a family torn apart by war, envy, corruption and greed and how a quest for answers also helped heal old wounds. It might also help people look beyond the descriptions "refugee" and "asylum seeker" to see the person and their story…A powerful piece of television, made more authentic by Ziusudras' first-hand narration of this tale.”
"This documentary never becomes bogged down in legalese and is a compelling tale of one family's devotion to their son"
"A remarkable story and a clever and affecting piece of storytelling"
"An emotional journey...unflinchingly captured on camera"
Koori queens proudly get out and about in this high-spirited and affirming documentary."
"We get a rare glimpse into the world of indigenous gay men in tonight's Sissy ... an energetic, inventive and occasionally touching Western Australian-made documentary that looks at the lives of three colourful drag queens."
"Considering the double whammy served up by homophobia and racism, Sissy insists on having a good time while handling thought-provoking material."
[Shaun Micallef’s] quest to discover if there is ‘‘greater purpose than being a semi-professional Australian TV personality’’ makes for a funny and watchable journey.
Filled with wit, warmth and revelations, Stairway To Heaven will intrigue even non-believers.
"It's a compelling story and you made a compelling film out of it. Just terrific."
"A fascinating insight into the world of the night"
“Surprising, raunchy, hilarious, crazy! Expect the unexpected!”
"Puppetry most certainly is an art from and some of the performances here will take your breath away"
“I have been directly or indirectly involved in WDYTYA productions in the U.S., Canada and the U.K …I must say that this one [Andrew Denton's episode] of the very best I have seen”
"...it's the most engaging detective series in years"
"... surprising, extraordinary and often moving"
"A compelling, lovely adaption of an excellent British format"
"One of the reliable pleasures of this series is just how great it looks. The production values are always first-class and wherever we are in Australia or the world, you can't quibble with the scenery. Who Do You Think You Are? is about much more than looking pretty, though, blending history and biography to create a package that's accessible, entertaining and educational. (FOUR STARS)"
“It's the perfect mix of history and celebrity..."
"... this program has about it a quiet authenticity that allows the subject’s story to unfold of its own accord."
"The series is more than a peek into the backgrounds of the famous; it also chronicles the social and cultural evolution of our national identities via these celeb family histories. 4/5 stars"
"Each episode is essentially a feature documentary, well-researched and produced, and presented usually with a humorous or deeply emotional touch... This show is seriously habit-forming"
This series is fascinating and so well done...
(pick of the week)
"... explores the family histories of its subjects with class and humour. Verdict: A Hit."