Truly Madly Puppetry

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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….



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reviews

"One of the best pieces of Australian- produced television to go to air this year"
- Media Week, James Manning, 27/09/04

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- Mark Naglazas – The West Australian Today 1/12/01

“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."

- CYCLOPS The West Magazine, The West Australian Newspaper 2/12/00

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- West Australian, Sue Yeap

"This documentary never becomes bogged down in legalese and is a compelling tale of one family's devotion to their son"

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"A remarkable story and a clever and affecting piece of storytelling"

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"An emotional journey...unflinchingly captured on camera"

- The West Australian

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- Melbourne Queer Film Festival Guide

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- Mark Naglazas, The West Australian Today

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- Mims McIntyre, Melbourne Times, 14/03/01,

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- Canberra Times, 14/04/03
"A fly on the wall insight" 
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“Surprising, raunchy, hilarious, crazy! Expect the unexpected!”

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"Puppetry most certainly is an art from and some of the performances here will take your breath away"

- The Australian, Ian Cuthberston, 23/08/08

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- Weekend Australian, Graeme Blundell, 06/04/13
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(pick of the week)

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There are enough twists and turns here to make you think you’re watching an actual drama.
- Cameron Adams,Herald Sun, Melbourne, 25/08/15

"... explores the family histories of its subjects with class and humour. Verdict: A Hit." 

- Michael Idato, SMH, 31/12/07.

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