Warrnambool Holiday Actors are starting the new year in high gear as they take to the stage for the puppet-filled action of Shrek – The Musical.
After COVID delayed the performance in 2022, all of the singers, actors, puppeteers and production crew are ready to hit the Lighthouse Theatre stage from January 7.
Holiday Actors member Lyle Russell said the group decided to build all of their own puppets for this production and run a workshop for any interested performers wanting to build their skill-base, after initially hiring puppets for the original performance dates.
The show will feature a range of different character puppets, with a range of sizes and performance requirements, Lyle said.
“We are going to build a super-enormous dragon, a big dragon head and tail and fan-shaped wings. It has to have a moving mouth and eyes that can blink with eyelashes,” Lyle said.
“Gingi, the gingerbread man, will be a sock puppet on a baking tray and he will be made from foam with a moveable mouth. The three blind mice will be rod puppets, and some baby Shreks will be rod puppets as well.”
The decision to create their own puppets also required specialist training for the performers to be able to operate the different characters, Lyle added.
“So this is where the puppet workshop idea has come from, and we thought why not upskill ourselves,” she said.
“We will want to carry the puppetry on into The Wizard of Oz [in 2023 with the Warrnambool Theatre Company], Toto could easily be a rod puppet.
In 2022, Holiday Actors conducted a puppet making workshop with the help of Melbourne-based puppet performer Jhess Knight from Trash Puppets & The Puppet Smithery. Funded by a grant from SWCF, this workshop taught new skills to the performers and production crew.
“Building capacity is one of our main goals. People can get singing, dancing, and acting lessons in the community, but when it comes to production we are on our own. We basically learn from each other,” Lyle said.
“These creative opportunities for kids making puppets and seeing you can entertain yourself, building capacity, is a mainstay of what we try to do.
“I would love to thank the South West Community Foundation for funding this. The ability to develop new skills in production and performance is really important. Without these grants we would have to charge people prohibitive amounts of money to attend, we could not afford to do this. Without this it would be really difficult to run.”
Tickets for Shrek – The Musical are available from Warrnambool’s Lighthouse Theatre, with performances from 7-14 January.