The Apple Show

Premiere 6 January 1979
Venue Pot Pourri Program, Tasmanian Puppet Festival, Hobart, Tasmania

handspan Theatre The Apple Show statue-like glove puppet figures (Helen and Paris) with Grecian urn outline and silhouette figure of Athena

The Apple Show Helen and Paris, glove puppet statues designed and made by Maeve Vella, with Athena in shadow screen Grecian urn
Photograph © Jon Conte, 1979

THE APPLE SHOW was a collection of stories about the ‘apple’ in folklore, mythology and fantasy.

The production was originally created by the company for the International Puppetry Festival held in January 1979, in Hobart, Tasmania (referencing the State's occasional title, 'The Apple Isle').

The Puppet Festival offered Handspan an opportunity to appear in the Pot Pourri program which allowed participants free choice of the material they presented. Despite having the very successful The Mouth Show in repertoire, Handspan's ambition knew no bounds, and the company seized the chance to create a new work and one that could appeal to a wider audience base.

Handspan Theatre The Apple Show green advertising poster, in worn condition with picture of a large apple

Original poster from the side of Handspan Theatre's touring kombi van (1979)
Designed by Ken Evans

The show

Staged in and around Handspan’s triangular puppet booth, the APPLE SHOW mixed puppetry styles – glove, rod and shadow with masked performers and actors to tell its stories for upper primary and family audiences. The work was devised as a flexible, 45-minute introductory stimulus to puppet-making and performance workshops in schools and communities.

'Apple stories' were presented in short sketches illustrating various puppetry techniques.

Adam and Eve were masked faces which appeared in an appliqued tree, with a sock puppet snake; Athena was a shadow puppet, and Helen and Paris glove puppets; Diana and Altantis were technically complicated rod puppets requiring legs as well as arms to be articulated for their race; the Seven Dwarves were much simpler heads on sticks that moved together on a multi-rod device. Granny Smith was an actor, and the show ended with apple-bobbing competitions between volunteers from the audience under her supervision. Post show Q & As demonstrated the techniques of each style and discussed their performance capabilities to introduce workshops.

Extended development

It had been a contentious decision within the fledgling Handspan company to produce the APPLE SHOW on spec, without commissioning funds and with four weeks, including Christmas, from conception to premiere for an audience of industry peers. The work was under-rehearsed and unpolished for its premiere performances at the Festival, but it attracted interest in Handspan, despite its flaws.

Handspan Theatre The Apple Show set up - blue tent with an appliqued apple tree across its front side

Appliqued Apple tree drop, designed and made by Helen Rickards
Company snapshot, 1979
Click photos to enlarge

Lyndon Peter Wilson, Director of the Tasmanian Puppet Theatre, saw the production, and interested in the company's, potential, offered to work on THE APPLE SHOW's further development.

L.P. Wilson was a key mentor for the Handspan collective whose experimentation with puppetry had been significantly influenced by his works since the Tasmanian Puppet Theatre's visit to Melbourne in 1975. So it was an exciting proposition. In early 1979, Handspan received its first Government funding support (Australia Council ($2500)) which enabled Wilson's engagement to redirect and extend the work.

Under Wilson's direction, the show was polished and its techniques honed and rehearsed. The revised production toured Melbourne metropolitan primary schools, Victorian regional areas and to northern New South Wales in repertoire with The Mouth Show and Hansel and Gretel - Out of the Booth until late 1979.

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Creative team
Devised, designed & realised Ken Evans, Helen Rickards, Maeve Vella & Christine Woodcock
Director (1979) Lyndon Peter Wilson

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6 January International Puppet Festival Pot Pourri Program, Hobart Tasmania
9 - 13 January Eastlands Shopping Centre, Hobart, TAS
27 - 29 January Williamstown Community Fair
3 - 4 February Footscray Community Fair
7 March George St Primary School, Fitzroy (Handspan Theatre Video, Videomakers, 1979)
1 - 25 May Revised production rehearsal
18 May Knoxfield Council school holiday program
30 June Literary Institute, Byron Bay, NSW
1 July Tomato Sauce Factory, Nimbin, NSW
August - December Community performances:Civic Theatrette, Shepparton; B’Spell Theatre, Abbotsford; Carringbush Library, Richmond; Bayswater Community Centre Melbourne metropolitan & Victorian regional areas
Victorian Youth Theatre Association (VYTA) Drama Camp
12 - 16 November INROADS Arts Train, National Australian Youth Performing Arts Association, celebrating International Year of the Child
Total performances 60
Total audience 6300

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