|Premiere||27 August 1993|
|Venue||U2, Universal Theatre, Fitzroy|
METAFOUR was the first work programmed by Ken Evans when appointed Handspan's Artistic Director in 1993. It was produced to create an opportunity for experienced company members to focus on and develop their individual skills and ideas through visual theatre. Unlike the company's mainstage production earlier in the year, Viva La Vida - Frida Kahlo which was staged with actors and lavish visual characters and effects, Ken described the project as: back-to-basic stuff - no text, no actors, just puppets1 .
Each segment was devised and performed by experienced individual Handspan members: Katy Bowman, Lizz Talbot, Avril McQueen and Michele Spooner for performance in a similar format to Women Alone (1989). Its six acts aimed to be brief visual metaphors that were evocative in style, polished in technique and conceptually symbolic rather than narrative. Performers assisted in each others' segments and together, the acts were segued into a full-length performance through black theatre lighting designed by Philip Lethlean.2
METAFOUR was presented for a showcase season at the Melbourne Fringe Festival in 1993 sub-titled: Image - Body - Object - an evocative showcase of visual eclecticism. Leonard Radic, Melbourne theatre critic claimed this was:
METAFOUR presented four different puppetry and visual performance styles explored by individual artists in a program of independent conceptual ideas:
Devised by Katy Bowman, Works was in three parts: Cycle, Fluid Forms and Light Dance thematically suggesting creation, death and re-creation. The pieces continued Katy's fascination with materials and body movement in performance, and added the interplay of light to the movement tableaux that developed. The segments opened the show and interspersed the subsequent acts in the production.
Wired was devised by Lizz Talbot inspired by ancient history and contemporary mythological literature, particularly that of South American writer, Isabel Allende. Lizz devised the piece, and built its images, centrally an aluminium, wire and wood construction of a human female.
This vignette, devised by Avril McQueen aimed to illustrate the youthfulness of spirit inside an aging body. Her program notes read:
Avril used stock puppets from the Handspan collection to represent an old woman and a younger spirit whose reactions to small objects were brief glimpses of mental strength inside physical frailty.
Rites of Passage
The most technically and conceptually complex of the acts, Rites of Passage was devised by Michele Spooner in response to her program note questions:
The piece continued Michele's exploration of the relationship between object and manipulator, that built on her previous Vignettes: Smalls, Moments and The Immaculate Contraption (in Women Alone). In the theme of this work, she looked at the influence of guiding hands.
Rites of Passage was performed by a masked and robed 'priestess' who operated a puppet and a candle, in ceremonial and ritual moments that revealed their power-play. 'It is not until the candle goes out that she (the puppet) can really see', explained Michele.3 .
METAFOUR was well-received by Melbourne critics and the production was awarded the 3LO Performing Arts Best Group Award by the radio station for its Fringe Festival season.
METAFOUR re-engaged Handspan's members and its performing ensemble after their drift from the company during David's Baird's artistic leadership (1991 - 1992).
By programming the work as the first in his new role, Ken Evans aimed to re-emphasise and consolidate the company's visual performance skills and techniques, and at the same time, to reinforce Handspan's early collaborative practice of creating work in which:
|Stage manager||Mikkel Mynster|
|Puppet maker||Colleen Crapper with Katy Bowman, Lizz Talbot, Avril McQueen & Michele Spooner|
|Graphic designer||Fiona Sweet|
|Poster image||Paul Dickenson|
|Production assistance||Winston Appleyard, Carmelina Di Guglielmo, Monray, Daryl Pellizzer, Heather Monk, Peter J.Wilson, Vivia Hickman, Robert Stephens, John Rogers, Michael Buckley, Toni Wallace, Jo Briscombe, Jacky Talbot & Maeve Vella|
|27 August - 12 September||U2, Universal Theatre, Fitzroy, Melbourne Fringe Festival|