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Published July 1st 2015
"I'm as stubborn as a tree and just as strong" - Abel's Mum
It's preview night of Blueback at the Spare Parts Puppet Theatre in Fremantle, and I have the overwhelming feeling I am stepping back in time. It's been almost 10 years since I attended a Spare Parts production and the last time was with two small children, children who are now teenagers, in tow.
But it smells like theatre and magic, the puppets I remember from all those years ago are still on display in the foyer, and the excitement bubbling over from the youngsters in attendance is tangible.
Puppetry requires a suspension of belief that comes naturally to kids but sometimes rubs uncomfortably for adults – less imaginative souls that we are. It's not until after the show I realise the leap into my own imagination took less than a moment, as the opening scenes play out and the puppeteers are all but unnoticed behind their life-infused puppet characters.
We are introduced to the world of Abel Jackson, a child born and raised in the ocean. Abel conducts regular, rather one-sided conversations with his "Dear Dad" while his ever present Mum provides a comforting background noise of requests to change the duck water and net the fruit trees. It's a scene instantly recognisable for those of us who've been fortunate enough to grow up in Western Australia and has the distinct flavour of Winton's work, the original story providing the basis for this award-winning adaptation of Peta Murray's.
Like all of Winton's stories, there is inherent celebration of the beauty of our natural surroundings. It's a consistent theme and translated through every expert movement of the puppeteers.
Blueback himself, a giant, extraordinary groper, is both mesmerising and playfully humorous. He sports a big under-bite (which he isn't afraid to use!) and his friendship with Abel increases the audience stakes in the salvation of their ocean home, which looks to be threatened by the increasingly persistent developers.
Blueback; A Story of Standing Up for What You Believe In
At one point, I am brought out of the magic when the little guy behind us pipes up with an awe-filled "That is SO COOL". The person beside me chuckles. It's a toy boat 'sailing' through a sea of undulating fabric. I am not the only one completely engrossed in the show.
This production touches on death and delivers this concept tenderly to its young audience through the exploration of Abel's "Dear Dad" being lost at sea. With an undercurrent of the need for the relationships between each other and the environment, a journey to discover where you belong, along with a lesson about fighting for what you believe in, Blueback is a must see, for all of us.
Blueback's season commences on Saturday July 4th and runs through to Saturday July 18th. There are two evening performances scheduled on Wednesday July 8th and Friday July 17th at 6.30pm. Performances are daily, except Sundays, at 10am and 1pm. Tickets can be purchased online at www.sppt.asn.au or by calling 9335 5044.