Masked except for her eyes, the Fanlady is costumed in white paper fans and looks directly at you.


1977 - 2002

A ground-breaking theatre company from Melbourne, Australia

Handspan Theatre emerged from humble origins in the late 1970s and hit the '80s running with a momentum that carried it through two decades of prolific output, until it ran out of breath early in the new century.

Committed to innovation and experiment, Handspan's roots were in puppetry, where it learnt to communicate ideas in ways more visual than verbal. Integrating a puppetry sensibility with other theatre forms, the company mapped new territory in stagecraft, mixing the animate and the inanimate to develop a hybrid style that tapped the strengths of both.

A touring company, Handspan Theatre devised work for a wide range of audiences and locations, from kindergarten to cabaret, mainstage to street and just once, a swimming pool.

From an original ensemble of six its members and associates came to number several hundred artists and theatre workers, who produced, performed and toured some 75 original works, seen by over 750,000 audience members on 5 continents.

This site documents Handspan Theatre's 25-year lifespan. Scholars, theatre enthusiasts and interested bystanders will find here an abundance of information about the company, its productions and the people who made them.

Handspan Archive

old suitcase with handprint logo

Original documents, photographs and graphic materials are held in the Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne, unless otherwise specified. Photographers, where known, are credited in captions.

If you worked (or played) with Handspan Theatre and have material you would like to contribute to the website, we'd love to hear from you. Please email:

handprint logo with stage curtain
Productions for theatres and festivals.
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For Young People
Productions for children and teenagers.
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Small-scale productions for cabaret and theatre.
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On the Street
Outdoor spectacles, parades and protests.
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Community workshops and events.
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Collaborations with other perforrming arts companies.
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Curated collection of photographs, videos and graphic materials..

Photo Credits
  1. Carmelina Di Guglielmo as the Fanlady in Secrets, 1983. Photograph (detail) © Stephen Hall.
  2. Hansel and Gretel. Photograph (detail) © Christine Johnson (Woodcock), 1977
  3. Katy Bowman in Metafour, 1993. Photograph (detail) © Ponch Hawkes, 1993
  4. Suitcase branded and photographed by Ken Evans.