|Premiere||21 January 1980|
|Venue||Trade Union Picnic, Mornington|
THE BUNYIP OF BERKELEY'S CREEK was Handspan’s first non-commissioned work. It followed the success of The Mouth Show with primary school audiences, but was created to play to general public audiences at local and community events as well – indoors and outdoors.
The book appealed to Handspan for its interpretation of the theme of self-discovery. It was a relevant concept for Handspan’s young audiences, but less determinedly message-laden than The Mouth Show, which was still in the company repertoire at the time. The story’s Australian setting and iconic animal characters also offered interesting opportunities for interpretation and staging that mixed puppetry, actors and masks in a flexible and accessible play.
THE BUNYIP OF BERKELEY'S CREEK, adapted by John Rogers and Tony Rickards, followed Jenny Wagner’s storyline closely. The Bunyip appeared from his muddy creek, asking “Who am I?” of all passers-by. Raucously laughing at him, the Kookaburra pointed out that the Bunyip had feathers so he must be a bird; the Platypus identified his fur; the Emu and Kangaroo squabbled over his tail and running ability; and the doctor wouldn’t listen. Fortunately for the increasingly woebegone Bunyip he met another of his kind and a happily-ever-after conclusion ensued.
Ken Evans' design for the staging, puppets and costumes reflected Ron Brooks’ illustrations for the book but didn't attempt to be a replica of their detailed, ever-changing and dark style. In Handspan’s play, three brightly painted screens depicting a waterhole in a stylised Australian landscape could be set up anywhere. Puppet manipulators were visible, actors wore masks and simple costumes and performed in front of and around the screens and amongst the audience.
One of Handspan’s most popular shows, THE BUNYIPOK BERKELEY'S CREEK was performed over 500 times,touring for three years across Australia and the world, adapting to performance locations and touring circumstances of all kinds.
The production was originally created for three performers in 1980. Almost immediately, a two-hander version of the play was built, making it possible for the work to be carried in a backpack to the USA, Europe and UK by Ken Evans and Helen Rickards, travelling to the XIII UNIMA 2 Congress & 1980 World Festival in Washington DC - Handspan's first international appearance. At the same time Peter J.Wilson and Andrew Hansen toured the show in outback Australia for the Northern Territory Arts Council.
The two-hander version of the show came to an abrupt end when the puppets and props backpack was stolen from the Handspan studio soon after its return from overseas. It had survived abandonment on British bus lines, motor bike transport through the wet English Lake District and curiosity at an Amsterdam police station. The snatch from Handspan’s home was quite shocking - the only time in Handspan’s long open-door studio incumbency that anything was ever stolen:
Stories of life on the road with Handspan’s BUNYIP… are legion - pictures in the BUNYIP Gallery tell some of the story.
THE BUNYIP … was performed in school and community venues and sometimes in theatres. It replaced the Out of the Booth version of Hansel and Gretel as a stimulus performance for community arts engagement. In schools and for family and community audiences the play was often followed by Handspan artist workshops or local residencies in puppet making and performance.
In theatrical settings, the play was the feature work of Handspan’s only self-promoted touring ventures. The work shared the Superfun Show bill with magician Doug Tremlett in the Camberwell Library Theatre (1980), went on a Bunyip on the Peninsula tour to summer holiday locations on Mornington Peninsula, Victoria (1981) and a Seaside Double Header tour with Kooka Puppet Company (1982).
|Bunyip 1||Tony Rickards, Andrew Hansen, Ken Evans|
|Kookaburra||Helen Rickards , Peter J.Wilson|
|Platypus||Ken Evans, Peter J.Wilson|
|Emu||Helen Rickards, Peter J.Wilson|
|Kangaroo||Ken Evans, Ian Rolland|
|Doctor||Ken Evans, Peter J.Wilson|
|Bunyip 2||Helen Rickards, Peter J.Wilson|
|Also performed by||Kim Durant, Carmelina Di Guglielmo, Steve Gration,|
|21 January – 31 May||Melbourne metropolitan community and school performances: libraries, kindergartens, holiday programs, trade union picnics & birthday parties|
|23 January||Carringbush Library, Richmond (Author showcase)|
|February - May||Community Arts Conference. Country Victoria Community Arts Festivals: Edenhope, Warracknabeal, Tongala|
|19 March||Institute of Early Childhood Development, Kew (kindergarten teacher showcase) (VIDEO, filmed by IECD)|
|12 – 16 May||Superfun Show Camberwell Library Theatrette|
|June 13th||UNIMA Congress & World Puppetry Festival, Georgetown University Washington DC USA|
|July||Street performances, Paris & Amsterdam|
|August||London Summer Festival, St Martin’s-in-the Fields|
|August||Heriott Watt Theatre, Edinburgh Fringe Festival|
|July||You’re On Festival, Drama Resource Centre, Melbourne|
|11 - 16 August||Northern Territory Arts Council tour: Darwin, Tennant Creek, Katherine|
|16 – 23 August||Darwin Youth Theatre Festival, Brown’s Mart, Darwin, NT|
|21 - 28 September||Warana Children’s Festival Brisbane, QLD|
|13 – 24 October||Jolly Jumbuck tours (Library Council of Victoria) Hamilton & Echuca, VIC|
|October - December||Melbourne metropolitan community and school performances:|
|2 December||We’re On Festival, Drama Resource Centre, Melbourne|
|6 - 22 January||Bunyip on the Peninsula tour: Dromana, Rye, Sorrento, Rosebud, Tootgarook, Blairgowrie, VIC|
|27 February – 3 March||Children’s Festival, Mt Lawley College, Festival of Perth, WA|
|6 March||Public performances All Saints Hall, Crawley, WA|
|5 – 11 March||Perth metropolitan schools tour, WA|
|31 March – 4 April||Jolly Jumbuck tour (Library Council of Victoria)|
|7 – 29 May||Come Out ’81 and South Australian Regional touring|
|November||Back-to-Portland celebrations, VIC|
|January||Seaside Double Header season, Mornington Peninsula, VIC|
|March||Sound Shell Elder Park, Adelaide Festival of Arts Outdoor Program, SA|
|Adelaide Fringe Festival Education Program – Adelaide metropolitan & regional SA|
|Primary schools tour, Gippsland, VIC|
|Total audience||approx. 70,000|