Children’s puppet theatre bound for first overseas tour

Taiwan, Taiwan 1995
Polyglot Theatre

ARTICLE – The Australian Jewish News, 1995

Written by Danny Gocs

Last year more than 75,000 Victorian children enjoyed the art of puppetry in shows staged by Polyglot Puppet Theatre.

Next month the South Yarra-based company embarks on its first overseas tour when it makes a three-week tour of Taiwan.

Polyglot administrator Naomi Tippett, who helped establish the company in 1978, said there was a vast international audience for puppet shows, which easily overcame any language barriers.

“The two shows we will be taking to Taiwan – Almost A Dinosaur and Tadpole – are Australian in content but carry a universal message which can be easily understood by other cultures,” she said.

‘We hope this tour is the first of many in the region.”

Almost A Dinosaur was written by Jill Morris and features many Australian animals in a story that has an environmental message. Tadpole was written by Helen Lunn and Polyglot artistic director Philip Millar and also has an environmental theme.

“Puppetry has its roots in ancient history and has a strong tradition in Asia and Europe, so it is very appropriate that we are taking these shows to Taiwan,” said Ms Tippett.

“It is also a good opportunity to promote an Australian product in Asia. Polyglot is living up to its name of knowing many languages.”

Polyglot Puppet theatre will send five people on the tour of Taiwan – three performers, a lighting technician and a stage manager. Polyglot is a non-profit company and the trip has been funded by the Australia Council and Taiwan’s Performing Arts Management.

One of the reasons that Ms Tippett decided to establish the puppet theatre company 16 years ago was to promote communication and understanding between different cultures, using puppetry as an educational tool.

Ms Tippett said it stemmed from her school days when she was one of the few Jewish students at a Melbourne Anglican high school, and there was a widespread lack of understanding of Judaism by her classmates.

“The puppet shows provide the trigger for children to talk about different cultures, and teachers can develop a variety of discussion topics around each production,” she said.

During school terms Polyglot tours schools (including Jewish dayschools like Mt Scopus College, King David School and Bialik College), kindergartens, libraries and institutions throughout Victoria. Last year it staged 450 school shows in Melbourne and took a touring production to NSW, SA and the NT.

‘Puppet shows are very affordable for schools to stage and are very popular,” she said.

During school holidays, productions are staged at Polyglot’s theatre in Cromwell Road, South Yarra.

The current production, Digger’s Mate, is back for a return season due to public demand. It tells the story of an orphaned baby wombat which is raised by a Kelpie dog, Digger, and his friends, a dragonfly, gecko and worm.

The underlying message of the show, which uses glove and shadow puppetry as well as acting, is friendship, self-esteem and sibling jealousy. And there is also a look at Australian wildlife.

Digger’s Mate is for children aged 4-8. Performances are at 11am and 2pm (with only the 2pm show on Saturdays) until Saturday January 28. Tickets cost $8.