Captain Koala

Premiere September 1987
Venue Exhibition Hall, Royal Melbourne Show, Flemington

Handspan Theatre Captain Koala, kangaroo, koala, girl and bird puppets with 4 puppeteers in firefighter overalls on set of a rural Australian house verandah

Captain Koala Puppeteers (Fr L) Maeve Vella, Mary Coustas, Michael Blair and Paul Eperjesi
Photograph © David Herd, 1987

Black and white poster with cartoon animals and showtimes

Captain Koala poster

Click photos to enlarge

CAPTAIN KOALA was a commission from the Country Fire Authority, Victoria, to produce two plays about fire safety for its exhibition area at the Royal Melbourne Show. The work was brought to Handspan by its writer/director, Jon Stephens, at the time, Company Chair.

The plays were performed in a static set representing a rural Australian home where visible puppeteer/actors, dressed in yellow firefighter overalls, operated bunraku style puppet characters.

The work was devised and constructed to impart CFA information to children attending the Show in and its half-hour performances played 6 shows daily during its season.

Handspan Theatre Captain Koala 3 people onstage with puppets and man in fire-fighter costume standing stage front, singing

Paul Eperjesi as the Fire-fighter and behind from left, David Blair with Bird, Maeve Vella with Captain Koala and Mary Coustas with Girl

Handspan Theatre Captain Koala woman singing with large koala puppet in fire-fighter costume

Captain Koala operated by Maeve Vella

Handspan Theatre Captain Koala man in mask and costume with woman holding boy puppet

(L) David Blair as Fire and (R) Mary Coustas operating Boy

Photographs © David Herd, 1987

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Creative team
Writer Jon Stephens
Director Jon Stephens
Designer Michael Salmon
Composer John Phillips
Manipulation Director Jenni Fogarty
Captain Kangaroo Paul Eperjesi
Girl & Boy Mary Coustas
Bird & Fire & Fireman Michael Blair
Captain Koala Maeve Vella
Production teams
Set construction & painting Cliff Dolliver & Paul Newcombe
Puppet maker Michele Spooner
September 1987 10 days
Total performances 60
Total audience 9000

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For Young People: