Premiere September 1986
Venue Castlemaine Festival

Handspan Theatre Moments a puppet figure hanging by arms swinging on a wire

The Baby swings free
Photograph: © Helen Madden, 1986

Handspan Theatre Moments a child waving in triumph balanced on centre of seesaw

A Five Year-Old adventure
Photograph: © Helen Madden, 1986

tiny Bunraku puppets on a table top encapsulated in a miniaturist masterpiece
Veronica Kelly, Antnews, Melbourne, 1990

MOMENTS was created by Michele Spooner with Avril McQueen in 1986.

These short, non-verbal vignettes portrayed brief 'moments' through the cycle of a woman's life with small puppet figures, each operated by one or two puppeteers using modified bnraku techniques.

MOMENTS vignettes observed a woman at difference ages, Each brief segment was portrayed in tightly choreographed and carefully executed movement sequences that expressed glimpses of a lifetime.

balance is used as a metaphor to illustrate events that occur in the beginning, during and at the end of a person's life cycle.

Program note: Tianjin Sister Cities Arts Festival,1990

Hooded and shadowy puppeteers shared operation of the small white figures in a subtle interaction that explored the relationship between subject and manipulator to create the mood of each moment.

MOMENTS five acts were titled:

  • The Baby

  • The Five Year Old

  • The Sixteen Year Old

  • The Mature Woman

  • The Old Woman

Handspan Theatre Moments Puppet figure of old woman stretching from rocking chair to letter box

The Old Woman waiting for mail

Handspan Theatre Moments Puppet figure of an old woman sitting alone in rocking chair

The Old Woman alone
Photographs: © Helen Madden, 1986
Click photos to enlarge

In 1985, Michele had studied with Philippe Genty in a 9-week Masterclass at the Institut International de la Marionette in Charlesville-Mézières, France. The experience deepened her fascination with puppetry techniques and manipulation, and developed her skills in creating performances based on gestural observation.

MOMENTS' creation continued Michele's engagement with Genty's philosophies and concepts. The collection drew inspiration from and extended her first vignette, Positive Equals (Smalls,1985), developed under Genty's tutelage with Peter J.Wilson in which the gestures and movements of babyhood were portrayed.

In this work, Michele created puppet figures, much scaled down from the original baby character, but retaining its featureless all white body to illustrate universal emotions experienced in progressively aging bodies.

Moments uses tiny Bunraku puppets on a table top image life's beginnings, adulthood and pathetic end - pathos, poetry and comedy beautifully encapsulated in a miniaturist masterpiece

Veronica Kelly, Antnews, Melbourne 1990

Handspan premiered MOMENTS in a double bill with Smalls at the 1986 Castlemaine Festival. Melbourne critic, Geoffrey Milne who had followed the development of these vignettes since their early showings noted:

Moments added poignancy (and a disturbing feel) to the intriguing balance of the programme.

Geoffrey Milne, Centrestage, December, 1986

MOMENTS vignette segments remained in Handspan repertoire for several years and were later included in the Women Alone program (1989). Two decades later, some of the routines were re-created in showcase productions performed by students in the Victorian College of the Arts Puppetry Program (2004 - 2009) established and led by Peter J.Wilson and Gilly Farrelly..

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Creative team
Devised & designed by Michele Spooner
Directorial assistance Peter J.Wilson
Puppet maker Michele Spooner
Composer Gavan Dunn with Eric Gradman

Original cast Michele Spooner
Avril McQueen
Andrew Hansen
Also performed by Annie Wylie & Katy Bowman

September, 1986 Castlemaine Festival, Victoria
March, 1990 Lion Arts Centre, Adelaide Fringe Festival, South Australia

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