13 March 2012

An Australian Festival of Puppetry

Vanessa Ellis performance (Photo: Andrew Hobbs)

Driving through the tiny Victorian town of Maldon feels like traveling back in a time machine to the mid-eighteen hundreds. The quaint shops and buildings in the main street are lost in time and space. This is the town, 136 km north of Melbourne, where the first Tarrengower Puppetry Festival was held over the past long-weekend. The very first edition of this festival saw an interesting gathering of Australian puppeteers together with the local community crammed into the venues throughout the town, to enjoy the performances and workshops spanning the three-days.

The highlights of the festival were certainly the cabaret-slam events, which gave the audience an  opportunity to experience a mixed bunch of puppetry artists, using extremely diverse genres to entertain the crowds. I personally loved the classic Flea Circus performed by Sydney-based puppeteer, Dennis Murphy; the world famous shadows of Richard Bradshaw and The Cautionary Tale of Barry Von Peabody and the Scarlet Street Theatre by Melbourne based puppeteer, Jacob Williams of company Lemony S. (You can view some of pics by photographer Andrew Hobbs on the Tarrengower Times website here!)

Artistic Director of the festival, Richard Hart, spent the past few months trying to solve the jigsaw puzzle of fitting performers into the variety of available small venues from an underground gold mine to the Museum of Machinery. With all its teething troubles and there were a few, the festival created an awareness of puppetry in rural Victoria, which will hopefully open the minds and hearts of the local community to more involvement and participation in future festivals and from the words of the Mayor, "The Puppet Festival will now become an annual event in Maldon".

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