|Premiere||24 August, 1984|
|Venue||Strathmore North Primary School, Victoria|
GUTS was devised by Handspan in 1984 to be a versatile community and school touring show to replace The Bunyip of Berkeley's Creek (1980) which by that time had been touring for over three years.
The work was initiated because Handspan was keen to create a 'table top' show that could play for audiences in-the-round, stylistically inspired by some of the small scale puppetry productions of European performers. As the work evolved, the production's scale grew so that it could accommodate the larger audiences that school and community shows required. It remained however, quite literally, a 'table top' show, played in the round.
GUTS was inspired by U.K. illustrator, Michael Foreman's, picture book for children, War and Peas* (1974) brought to Handspan by its Director, Andrew Hansen. The play, by John Rogers, was an adaptation of the story told in the book about food, hunger, greed and courage.
Foreman’s classic about co-operation between nations pictured a famine-struck country, whose people were led by a lion king, who was so thin he was almost transparent. His pleas to the neighbouring country, made of gross, oversize cakes, bread and sweets, are met with hostility and invasion. Fortuitously as it transpires, the invaders’ tanks plough up the lion's barren land and spill some of their supplies, from which the birds are able to steal and sow seeds, so that he and his people eat again.
In Handspan's production, a starving Prince Wafer, played by Rick Ireland, met an overfed King Phlabula, Avril McQueen in a battle of wills across a dining table. The story played out as the table was set with cutlery, crockery and oversize, all white, food items. The play's climax completed the table setting with a coloured and decorated cake which popped up magically into 3 tiers. The cake's surprise action and its celebratory symbolism solved the arguments between the Prince and King and the situation was resolved through collaboration rather than invasion.
GUTS was devised in early 1985 and developed in workshop rehearsals while most of the Handspan ensemble were in Purchase, New York during Secrets 1984 tour. It was performed more than 100 times in schools and community locations during 1984 and 1985.
Miniaturised table tops productions remained a fascination at Handspan and led to its later international puppetry workshop project with Jacques Templero from France (1989) from which some of its vignette pieces took their inspiration, including No Right Angles in Paradise (1989), Women Alone (1989) and Metafour (1993).
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|War and Peas||written and illustrated by Michael Foreman. Published|
|Adapted by||John Rogers|
|Graphic image||John Dickson|
|King Phlabula||Avril McQueen|
|Prince Wafer||Rick Ireland|
|Costume makers||Jenny Sherlock, Maryanne Rennie|
|Table construction||Simon Fisher|
|Tour manager||Simon Fisher|
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|August - December||Melbourne metropolitan schools tour|
|September||Royal Melbourne Show|
|Mildura Show, Victoria|
|October||Children’s Activity Tent, Mount Gambier Spring Show, South Australia|
|7 November||Primary schools' Showcase, Handspan Studio, Gertrude St, Fitzroy|
|February||Greening of Swanston St, Victoria's 150th Centenary Celebrations|
|Come Out Festival, South Australia|
|Arts Council tour, regional and metropolitan schools South Australia|
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