Puppetry of the farm
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre (SPPT) is a regional schools touring program based in Western Australia that has performed to over 55,000 audience members since their establishment in 1981.
They use the art of puppetry to share stories that celebrate what it is to be human; connecting audiences across generations. And that’s exactly what they did when they ran a series of regional residencies in the Wheatbelt town of Merredin, located roughly mid-way between Perth and Kalgoorlie in WA.
With the help of a $5,000 grant from our Culture, Arts, Tourism & Community Heritage (CATCH) program, funded by the McCusker Charitable Foundation, Spare Parts Puppet Theatre delivered a series of workshops that included script writing, body mapping and performing with puppets. The activities focused on the unique identity attached to living within a regional community, sustainability and appreciation for the land. The residencies allowed the SPPT creative team to engage with the community to explore and develop stories and a genuine perspective of life in regional Australia.
As part of the residency, SPPT also set up a pop-up shop in the main street, which allowed community members to drop in and share stories and engage in a quick community mapping activity. Workshops in schools focused on skills-training and the emotional development of young people, with a particular emphasis on connecting with Indigenous youth in the community.
The project benefited a broad cross section of the community, and positively impacted on the emotional / mental health of the community through exploration of creativity, sense of place and sense of identity. It culminated in a performance called ‘Farm’ at the Cummins Theatre, which was attended by more than a quarter of the local population, as well as a public art piece of 100+ farmers that were imagined and created by the students of St Mary’s School and Merredin College.
Feedback from the community indicated a real resonance with the project, with one audience member commenting, “I had a strong emotional connection to the story – I laughed out loud at [times], but got quite teary when the family was struggling with drought, fire and the resulting unhappiness and stress. Ultimately, I felt uplifted as the show ended on a positive note of change and renewal.”