Prime Time

Premiere 26 September 1980
Venue Boronia Technical School, Melbourne metropolitan

Prime Time handspan Theatre, 4 space-age costumed people around a TV set

Prime Time (Fr L) Steven Kearney, Paul Adkin, Janet Shaw, Carmelina Di Guglielmo
Photograph: © Jon Conte, 1980

The role of the media - its uses and abuses ... junk food, the 'beautiful people', rock music ... question the media ... enter into the world of TV and voice your opinion'
Prime Time promotional material, Handspan Theatre, 1980

PRIME TIME was devised by final year Rusden State College students and produced and presented by Handpan Theatre for secondary school touring, a new marketplace for the company.

The play focused on the role of mass media in shaping opinion and influencing thought. Its plot centres on an adolescent who journeys through the world of television, enticed by a smooth talking puppet Technocrat Cat.

The performance style of PRIME TIME was more actor-focused than previous Handspan works, its key imagery was in striking futuristic costumes, and its message conveyed through comic mime and song interspersed with live dialogue and banter between the actor/characters and Technocrat Cat (TC). The adolescent heroine enticed into the world of television by TC with promises of fame and fortune, was manipulated by a money hungry media-controller until she rebelled and was thrown out.

Ken Evans' design added magic, comedy, and whimsy to its original draft. Outcomes and consequences were able to remain unspoken. Messages awkwardly dramatised that may have stagnated into dogma were refocussed to 'show' rather than 'tell'.

The play was staged against the backdrop of an oversized soft sculpture television screen mounted in Handspan's triangular touring booth. Actors and puppets were effectively drawn in and out of the screen world in their struggle to differentiate between fantasy and reality.

Rusden connection

PRIME TIME evolved from a Rusden State College graduate showcase and after it's further development at Handspan, toured professionally to 50 schools in the last term of 1980, and appeared at the We're On Festival1 , before its participants disbanded to follow independent post-graduate careers.

Students at Rusden had a choice of over fifty course units in Drama and created Theatre-in-Education plays and toured them to schools in country Victoria for a couple of weeks as part of their degree. PRIME TIME was first developed as one of these works by its devisors, graduate classmates in 1979.

Rusden, in the eastern outskirts of metropolitan Melbourne began as Monash Teachers’ College and evolved in the 1970s as an independent college with a developing curriculum in drama, media studies and dance.

A remarkable number of successful actors, teachers, directors, cinematographers, photographers, designers, dancers, choreographers, academics, arts administrators and writers have come from the place we know and love as Rusden

Judith Buckrich: The Making of Us: Rusden Drama, Media and Dance 1966-20022015

Rusden’s curriculum was, like Handspan’s practice, strongly influenced by the educational innovator, Dorothy Heathcote and her belief that the learning purpose of drama in education is maximised in accessible, interactive performance around topically relevant material, and the everyday experience of its audiences and participants. This common belief drew many Rusden graduates to Handspan’s approach to theatre for young audiences and several worked with the company in shows and as long-term artistic members.

In 1981, Handspan supported the production of Paul Adkin's first play written for general public audiences: The Jack and Jill Story, performed by Carmelina Di Guglielmo.


1 We're On Festival 1980 hosted by Victorian Education Department, Drama Resource Centre, Bouverie St., Melbourne: Schools touring production showcase and conference.

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Creative team
Devised & realised Paul Adkin, Carmelina Di Guglielmo, Steven Kearney, Janet Shaw.
Designer Ken Evans
Paul Adkin
Carmelina Di Guglielmo
Steven Kearney
Janet Shaw

Scroll back to Click Tabs: The Production & The Performances

3 September 1980 Preview: Victorian Youth Theatre Association (VYTA) Drama Camp, Portsea, Victoria
26 September - December Melbourne metropolitan secondary schools
2 December We’re On Festival, Drama Resource Centre, Melbourne
Total performances 50
Total audience 8985

Scroll back to Click Tabs: The Production & The People

For Young People: