Perth, bring on the puppets!
This month the much-awaited staging of Charlie and Lola’s Extremely New Play will burst onto the stage at the Heath Ledger Theatre.
The fun-filled family production, staged by Live Nation, follows the adventures of Charlie and Lola from the popular Lauren Child books and hit series’ on the BBC and ABC.
The show is a magical extravaganza of puppetry, live action and music.
Someone who fits into all these criteria perfectly is the multi-talented Sarah Hamilton, whose puppet plays the role of Lola.
She is also accomplished at singing, dancing, flute and gymnastics, and even has her own kids entertainment company. But Sarah’s passion for puppetry is shining through in her current role.
“The show is really magical and the kids just love it,” Sarah tells The Starfish. “All the stories make them use their imagination and they get totally engrossed by the puppets.”
The show has preserved Child’s original drawn cartoonish characters and uses inventive staging and colourful sets and props. There’s no live speaking, as a pre-recorded dialogue track means Charlie and Lola fans get familiar sounding voices from the cheeky, happy sibling characters.
Sarah says you don’t have to be a seven-year old to enjoy this puppet extravaganza, which starts its Australian tour in Perth on 17th December.
“The show obviously appeals to kids, but adults really get into it as well,” she says.
“The stories are very well written, quirky, and full of family dynamics. Everyone can relate to what’s happening on stage – there’s a bit of everyone and everything up there.”
How does a girl who studied music theatre at the Victorian College of the Arts become one of the best puppeteers in the country?
“I really didn’t know much about puppets when I was young so puppetry wasn’t something that I wanted to do as a kid,” she recalls. “I can’t say I even liked puppets then.
“But I stumbled into it at Melbourne University when I was involved in a musical production, and the director wanted to introduce some puppets for greater effect. I was fascinated and my love of puppetry and puppet shows started to grow.
“Since then I have had many roles and really enjoy it.”
She says recently the ancient art of puppetry has had something of a renaissance in Australia, however it has been a process helped by some global exposure to brilliant puppeteering.
“They staged a event in Melbourne back in 2011 called Puppets at Fed Square,” she says. “It was a great event with huge puppets, workshops, shows and premiers, but it really didn’t attract big crowds. I think people had lost touch with puppetry.
“They just needed to reconnect. Then Warhorse came along, and that really helped – both on stage and the film version of the play. It seems to changed everything.”
Technically superb and sentimental, War Horse is an emotional drama that tugs the heartstrings. The central character is a life-size mechanical horse – or giant puppet – and the show was a smash-hit around the world.
Sarah says Charlie and Lola’s Extremely New Play has had a very successful run in Asia.
“We were really delighted with response we got, particularly the shows in Hong Kong – they loved it. Singapore was also a real success, so the Perth crowd is in for a treat.”
Unlike your average Punch and Judy show, the puppeteers in Charlie and Lola are in full view on stage as they control their two-dimensional marionettes.
“It doesn’t seem to matter that we are all on stage where the audience can see us,” says Sarah. “Before long all eyes are on the characters and not us.
“I really get into the zone when on stage. If you are doing it right, the audience starts to focus on the puppets and this breaths life into them. You have to transfer your energy through the characters, and this breathes life into them. I become Lola.
“The team is been working together for over three years so we have practically become the Charlie and Lola family.”
Is it hard?
“Not everyone is a born puppeteer. I don’t think good puppetry is something that everyone can do. It’s really quite difficult. You either have it or you don’t and it takes a long time to really master it.”
She adds that there is little chance of the littlies getting bored during the production. Some inspired moves – like dropping paper leaves and foam snowflakes from the theatre roof, and raising large cloth butterflies on poles over the heads of the audience – keep even the most distracted nippers riveted to the goings-on.
“It’s an extremely visual show, so there is something for even the very young children. We have tried to make it so they don’t want to go running back to their iPads and computer games,” she laughs.
That would be quite an achievement, but we hear if anyone can do it, Charlie and Lola can!
Playful, funny and full of surprises, this extremely new play about friendship and adventure promises to be a treat for parents and children alike.
Charlie and Lola’s Extremely New Play is at the Heath Ledger Theatre Wednesday 17th December to Sunday 21st December. For complete tour and ticket information, visit: www.livenation.com.au and www.charlieandlola.com and http://www.ticketmaster.com.au/Charlie-and-Lola-tickets/artist/1409577
We have three family passes to give away to Starfish subscribers for Charlie and Lola’s Extremely New Play on Friday 19th December at 12.30pm at the Heath Ledger Theatre, Perth. Each family pass is 2 x adults and 2 x children. Simply email us at firstname.lastname@example.org telling us why you would like to go along and you could be one of the luck winners!