Oddsock’s quest

27a Cromwell Rd, South Yarra, Polyglot Puppet Theatre 1993
Polyglot Theatre

ARTICLE – Oddsocks and Snores, Herald Sun, 1993

Written by Loretta Hall

The audience quickly warms to Oddsock. In sympathy, they give the sock in search of a mate helpful directions.

“Don’t worry Oddsock,” says a small girl in the front row. “You’ll be all right.”

Behind the scenes, the men in black who bring the puppets to life concentrate hard when one young voice sets off a chorus of four-year-olds.

The audience joins in halfway through Oddsocks and Snores when actors Rob Matson and Malcolm Martin invite the children to stand up and jump about, just in time to beat the ripple of restlessness.

“You forget how little they are sometimes,” says Philip Millar, from Polyglot Puppet Theatre.

Millar is the company’s artistic director. Occasionally he sits with the adults at the back of the room and takes notes but he says there is no need now because the rewritten show is running well after its latest primary schools tour.

Best suited to children aged four to eight, Helen Lunn’s Oddsocks and Snores is now about to open at Polyglot Puppet Theatre, the old Arena Theatre in South Yarra.

Polyglot, which celebrated its 15th birthday last month, moved in to the theatre last year.

At its new headquarters, there is room to make and store puppets and present shows. Once the company is more settled, there will also be a resource centre offering books and advice to people interested in puppetry.

“Now that we have a home the company members feel more secure,” Millar says. “When you’re on the road you get a scattered feeling. It’s nice to have a space where everything is focused.”

While he is keen to bring Oddsocks and Snores to the public, Millar is grateful that a network of teachers has kept a dozen Polyglot puppeteers in work over the years.

His own work in puppetry earned him a Churchill Fellowship grant to study new methods in the United States, Britain and Europe this year.

In Los Angeles, Millar visited the studios of Stan Winston who supervised the making of the puppet dinosaurs in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park.

He was also an observer at the Henson Foundation in New York where Sesame Street’s cast is assembled.

Henson’s creatures, which include the Muppets, have changed ideas about puppetry, Millar says.

“When people think of puppets they think of Kermit rather than more traditional forms, like Punch.”

But even Kermit is dated in design. Millar says the use of computer graphics has advanced puppetry overseas, and that he has plans to use this technology in Australia.

Oddsocks and Snores, however, relies on basic puppets to tell a tale and sell the message that you don’t have to change your appearance of personality to suit others.

Even if you are a faded old sock.

Oddsocks and Snores, by Helen Lunn. Polyglot Puppet Theatre, 27a Cromwell Rd, South Yarra, until October 2.