Tag: puppetry


Prepare to be enchanted!

By Myron My

I was surprised that I’d never heard of Rakugo theatre prior to this evening (considering I had lived in Japan for two years) so I was quite excited to witness The Butterfly Club hosting the number-one Rakugo performer in Australia, Showko (even if through her own admission, she is the only Rakugo performer in Australia!)

 Rakugo is a 400-year-old traditional form of storytelling involving a lone storyteller using minimal props whilst kneeling on a cushion. Movement, action and characters are all expressed through body language, voice and facial expressions. Remarkably, Showko only utilizes half the small stage of The Butterfly Club but is able to create a world twice as big in our minds.

Showko warms up the crowd so effectively that you don’t even realize the show has begun purely because you are mesmerized by her genuine excitement to be here and sharing with us the magic of storytelling and creation.  There are not many performers who can win over an audience with their opening line being about the joys of heated toilet seats.

In one hour, Showko manages to create an entire Japanese comedy show with puppetry, ventriloquism (and at one point, triple ventriloquism), song, bamboo magic and…monsters. The time and effort that has gone into creating the puppets is evident and Showko works wonders as she manages to bring them all to life with their own distinct personalities. I’m now on the hunt for my very own Cucumber Sushi Monster.

A few minor technical issues with music stopping and lighting changes requested took us out of the world Showko was creating for us, but such was her passion and charm that she drew us right back in.

By the end of the performance, there was not one person (I was watching) walking away without a smile on their face – perhaps Showko had really got everyone in touch with their inner child.

Date: June 14th, 15th, 16th  7pm/17th  6pm

Venue: The Butterfly Club, 204 Bank Street, South Melbourne

Tickets: $23 / $20

Bookings: thebutterflyclub.com


It’s the little things in life…

By Adam Tonking

Prepare yourself for an avalanche of cute. The Cautionary Tale of Barry Von Peabody and the Scarlet St Theatre is an epic tale of death and redemption, about a child from Berlin in 1938 who grows up to sacrifice everyone he loves as rebellion against his strict German father. And it’s performed by Jacob Williams’ adorable and tiny little puppets.

The story itself sounds bleak and depressing, but ultimately the story is unimportant, and not even particularly well told. The focus here is the gorgeous puppets, and the artistry of Williams and his tiny little theatre. There is just no end to the detail Williams has put into his show – tiny little red velvet curtains on a tiny little stage with tiny little footlights and gargoyles. And it is damn cute.

The characters are eccentric-looking creatures, and Williams brings them to life through his impressive talent. After all this is an epic tale, covering several decades, different locations, and many different characters. All of this is manipulated by Williams alone: the cast, the set-changes, lighting cues, the special effects – he even manages to involve the audience. It is a monumental feat, and Williams pulls it off brilliantly.

Restricting the audience to fifteen at a time I assume was mainly for the logistics of ensuring everyone could see the tiny little puppets, but it also lent the show a sense of intimacy and comradery, not only with the audience but with the puppets and the puppetmaster as well. The novelty of all this adorableness never grows tiresome, and even stretches to cover any gaps in pacing and storytelling. This is all about the cute characters, adorable staging, and the clever manipulator Williams. Sit back, admire the technical brilliance, and prepare to say “Awwww!” a lot.

The Cautionary Tale of Barry Von Peabody and the Scarlet St Theatre is on at La Mama Theatre, 205 Faraday Street, Carlton 3053 from Tuesday 10 April till Sunday 22 April, at 6.30pm Tuesday, 8.30pm Wednesday, 9pm Thursday and Friday, and 4pm Saturday and Sunday. Book at www.lamama.com.au or by calling 9347 6142.


Frank and funny, with an unforgettable finale

By Bradley Storer

Entering in complete darkness Jenny Wynter begins her cabaret, An Unexpected Variety Show, exhorting her audience to reflect in the dark on their own lives and choices, before launching into the opening song bearing the same title as the show, marvelling at the many twists and turns one life can take.

This autobiographical show for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival takes us on a tour of episodes of Wynter’s life, broken up with a wide stylistic range of original songs.

The main theme is the attempt to reconcile youthful dreams of fame and success with the responsibilities of adulthood. There are hilarious numbers about youthful affairs, mother/daughter relationships, and married life all interspersed with costumes changes and (at one inspired moment) puppetry.

While always maintaining a mercurial atmosphere, Wynter does not shy from quite confronting material even from the beginning, touching on her experiences as a young mother, the death of a close family member as a child, and the struggle to balance family life and life as a performer.

Wynter gives off the brassiness and bravado of a veteran showgirl, but with the mature vulnerability of one for whom the show has ended years before. While not always strong vocally, she has the distinct features and versatile singing voice of a classic character actress, ably jumping from a throaty and voluptuous saloon song to a Tina Turner-style soul number and even rapping with aplomb.

While it may not be not mind-blowing, Wynter is a charming performer and has written a show with a big heart and many beautiful moments throughout, in particular one gorgeous and touching segment where Wynter harmonizes with the voice of her own mother (herself a singer), with the finale leaving a smile which is impossible to erase.

Venue: The Butterfly Club, 204 Bank St, South Melbourne

Dates: April 10th – 22nd

Time: Tuesday/Wednesday/Sunday 6pm, Thursday/Friday/Saturday 7pm

Tickets: At The Butterfly Club, or online at www.thebutterflyclub.com

Full $27
Concession $24
Group (8 or more) $23
Tightarse Tuesday $15