|Premiere||12 July, 1981|
|Venue||Carringbush Library Theatrette, Richmond|
JANDY MALONE AND THE NINE O’CLOCK TIGER was adapted for the stage by Handspan from the book by Barbara Bolton, illustrated by Alan White1
The book is set in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond where Jandy and her siblings are afraid of the dark and unnerved by their father’s absence after a family break-up. Jandy’s bedtime stories have bred the imagined terror of a Tasmanian Tiger lurking in the hallway. Despite all attempts to hold the illusion at bay, the terror remains until Jandy confronts the fears she has created.
Fear of the dark was a well-recalled memory of Handspan artists, and the story struck a chord when it was introduced to the company by Gay Reid, in Adelaide early 1981. The company were on tour with The Bunyip of Berkeley's Creek for the Come Out Festival. By then the Bunyip … had been on the road for a year, and Handspan was looking for new material. Gay was teaching in upper primary school and suggested the book for its topical relevance to her students as well as its popularity with young readers and librarians.
The setting for JANDY MALONE … an inner Melbourne terrace cottage, was a familiar canvas for Handspan - Jandy's house might even have been the company's first workshop in Richmond itself2 . Moreover, the work lent itself to in-theatre production, a new platform that the company was keen to explore, and was an opportunity to further develop black theatre and shadow puppetry techniques, and as well as illusion of scale with actors and puppets operated by visible manipulators.
The play was directed by Helen Rickards who also played Jandy for its first season.
The play was adapted by its original cast and supported by the City of Richmond Community Arts Officer, Jackie Talbot, for its opening at Book Week 1981 at the Carringbush Library Theatrette.
The script diverged from much of the original text to focus on Jandy's bedtime stories, made up to entertain her younger siblings - her fantasy that their home had been built by gold prospectors who had left nuggets beneath its foundations; a magical umbrella that towed them through the sky over the City; and a Tasmanian Tiger who prowled the hallway of thir home from nine o'clock till nine thirty every night.
Ken Evans’ design of a black and white toned bedroom was a simple scene of two upright beds (full-sized versions of the booth model used in Hansel and Gretel), flanking a scrim door through which the tiger glowed when summoned, and behind which the objects in the hallway appeared in a black theatre curtained void.
While Jandy was played by an actor, her younger siblings, Peter and Samantha were puppets. The puppets were made and designed by Anita Sinclair and her company, Mask of Janus, also located in Richmond. Outsourcing of puppet design and in most cases, construction, was an unusual occurrence for Handspan at any time in its life. JANDY …, however, was conceived when in-house puppet-making resources were unavailable, and it was another new option tried in the production – to hire an outside puppetry professional. The resultant puppets were lightweight and worked effectively, although their style remains incongruous in Handspan’s opus.
With puppeteer, Peter J.Wilson, Ken contrived an innovative manipulation support for the operation of Peter, Jandy's younger brother. The puppet was designed to be operated by a puppeteer shuffling in a squat, affectionately known as the Taskeshi Shuffle. after its introduction to the Tasmanian Puppet Theatre, and thence Australian puppeteers, by Puk Puppet Theatre in Japan.3 An effective operational style that allowed Bunraku style puppets to be operated by one puppeteer, it was nevertheless, for the puppeteer, an uncomfortable strain. Ken and Peter made a sturdy trolley on castors that allowed flexibility of movement but took the weight from the puppeteer's leg muscles. Draped in black velvet, the trolley merged with the hooded puppeteer and allowed his knees to support the puppet's walk from behind.
In the play, Peter pesters Jandy to investigate the hallway beyond the children's bedroom door, and for a while, their dread of the Tiger is held at bay by Jandy's other imaginings. She and Peter fly over the city skyline clutching an umbrella above a pop-up city scape, and nineteenth century gold prospectors appear in a brief medodrama accompanied by a piano soundtrack, composed by Will Conyers. But when these flights of fancy no longer hold their fears at bay, Jandy makes her way down the corridor behind the scrim doorway to face the Tiger.
The orginal book was entirely narrated by Jandy as a running thought-commentary inside her head that revealed much of her anxiety about her father's departure. In the playscript, her worries are focussed on the effect of her story telling on her younger siblings, conveyed in her long running monologues as she tries to distract them. These were criticised by some:
At the same time,
JANDY ... was was rehearsed with new cast members after opening in Richmond. Elizabeth Walley played Jandy; and subsequently, recent Rusden State College graduates, Steven Gration and Ian Roland, joined the cast and worked in Handspan's ensemble until the play's seasons concluded in May 1982.
The production inspired Handspan to create a new work designed for an in-theatre touring circuit., a Co-production, with the Mushroom Troupe BOMBORA. Again for young audiences and families, Bombora premiered in March 1992 and from then replaced JANDY ... in the company repertoire.
|12 - 17 July||Book Week: Carringbush Theatrette, Richmond (Double bill with Beastly Combinations|
|5 - 9 October||Maroondah High School Theatrette, Croydon|
|12 – 16 October||Alexander Theatre Monash University, Clayton|
|19 – 23 October||The Mill Theatre, Geelong|
|2 – 6 November||St. Paul’s Hall, Ballarat|
|9 – 11 November||Anthill Theatre, South Melbourne|
|19 January||Frankston State College, Victoria|
|March||AMP Theatre, Adelaide Festival Fringe|
|8 – 21 May||School Holiday season Anthill Theatre, South Melbourne|
|Total performances||Approx 80|