The Art and History of Puppetry

Are puppets all child’s play? Not according to Susan Mills. The archivist for the S,B&W Foundation says that puppetry is a universal, ancient artform which is for everyone.

A puppet history

Historians believe puppetry developed spontaneously from religious rites and rituals in societies, where objects represented gods and deities. From there, the entertainment and storytelling art of puppetry was born.

Sydney’s First Play

On 4 June 1789, a little over a year after the First Fleet arrived in Sydney Cove, a “party of convicts” presented the lively comedy The Recruiting Officer to celebrate the birthday of King George III.  

The play, a favourite of the time, was performed in “a convict-built hut” and honoured by the presence of His Excellency the Governor, Captain Arthur Phillip and an audience of 60 officers and their wives.

A Treasure Trove of Programmes

Theatre programmes have provided an invaluable historical record in Australia for just on 225 years. Susan Mills, the archivist at the Seaborn, Broughton & Walford Foundation in Sydney, looks at their history.

Politics and Broadway.

Image: Hamilton Australian cast. Photographer Daniel Boud.

Coral Drouyn looks at how the political scene has shaped Broadway musicals.

Kate Mulvany’s Joy, Magic and Darkness

Image: Kate Mulvany in The Literati (Photographer: Daniel Boud).

As Kate Mulvany perfected her new work to open Sydney’s renovated Wharf Theatre, the celebrated writer and actor shared with Martin Portus her vivacious signature of joy, magic and darkness – and a remarkable career lived in pain.  

More Stage Superstitions

In part two of this series, Coral Drouyn explores more of the myths and superstitions that have shaped the history of theatre.

If all the world’s a stage, it stands to reason that there will be as many superstitions in theatre as there are in real life. Well, not quite. There’s a fine line between etiquette, superstition and tradition in theatre, and sometimes the lines blur. For example, one piece of etiquette could just as easily be superstition, which gave way to tradition in the years between the 15th and 19th centuries.

Ghosts of Theatre Past

Coral Drouyn looks at myths and traditions that are part of our love of theatre.

Do you believe in ghosts? Even a little bit? Chances are if you have ever stepped upon a stage in a theatre more than 100 years old, you have been watched from the wings by one. Spooky, literally. Melbourne’s Princess Theatre has its own benign ghost - Federici – so popular they named a restaurant after him and keep a seat for him on every opening night. More on Fred later.

Stephen Sewell’s Furies

Australia’s celebrated, most political, surely most impassioned playwright Stephen Sewell shares his life’s anger and achievements with Martin Portus. He decries our mainstage theatres as dominated by “exclusive gangs” bereft of artistic directors able to develop new work.

Stephen Sewell returned six years ago to live in the gritty western Sydney suburb of his childhood. With his young family, he’s back to the same Granville house, even sleeping in his old bedroom.    

Love At First Seat

See or act in a musical as a child and you’re hooked for life. That is the belief and experience of Coral Drouyn. She speaks to grown up child stars Tony Sheldon and Michael Dalton and explores the mystique that Musical Theatre holds for young and old.