The Carnival of the Animals

Premiere 7 April, 1983
Venue Melbourne Concert Hall, Victorian Arts Centre
Only a management such as an Arts Centre could easily and quickly put together a production with nearly forty performers and present it to 9000 children in two days.
Andrew Bleby, Review: Lowdown, Vol 5. No 2. May 1983

The Carnival of the Animals
Adelaide Zoo, Come Out Festival,1984

Company snapshot

THE CARNIVAL OF THE ANIMALS was produced and presented by the Education Department of the Victorian Arts Centre for school performances that would trial the soon to be opened Concert Hall (now Hamer Hall).

Susie Leigh, Education Officer at the Centre commissioned Handspan to create and animate visual, puppetry-based images to appear with Saint-Saens score played by the Victorian College of the Arts orchestra and Fred Parslow, narrator of Ogden Nash's verse.

The work was performed for a short schools' audience season in Melbourne and was toured to South Australia by the Education Officer at the Adelaide Festival Centre, Cate Fowler, for the Come Out Youth Arts Festival where it was re-staged for performance in the rotunda of the Adelaide Zoo, narrated by Kerry Walker and played by the Adelaide Department of Further Education Orchestra.

Handspan's contribution to the production was ambitious. The concert included brief promenade scenes performed by the Kangaroo, Emu and Bunyip (from The Bunyip of Berkeley's Creek) who protested the lack of Australia animals included in the Carnival, and made up verses of their own for inclusion in Ogden Nash's poem:

The Emu is a leggy bird
Well-known throughout Australia
She rules the mile in record time
But at flying she's a failure

Scriptwriter: Tony Rickards, 1983

These scenes punctuated the performance of the twelve music segments of the Carnival each of which was accompanied by animated and choreographed images that were the 'animals' of each piece.

There were a lot of puppets required, which had to be spectacular and large enough to have an impact in the vast concert hall, and flexible enough to be manipulated by only four performers high up on narrow rostra and above the manipulators' heads in order to be seen above the orchestra from the stalls. The new venue supplied a purpose built scrim and black drapes that filled the vaulting proscenium space for the production.

A concert was turned into theatre by inviting Handspan to illustrate each animal which they did using large costumes, cut-out and puppets behind a huge scrim onto which was projected suggestions of jungle, sky and sea. Fish, fossils, birds and the lumbering elephant all looked beautiful although occasionally some problems were encountered - it can be difficult to light two-dimensional cut-out from side-lighting only. Scenes featuring mules (ears and tail only), a pianist (a large unfurling keyboard with hands) and a cuckoo (complete with a giant clock) showed imaginative promise but did not come across with enough strength.

Andrew Bleby, Review: Lowdown, Vol 5. No 2. May 1983

In 1984 Susie Leigh commissioned Handspan for a similar production at the Concert Hall, The Sorcerer's Apprentice.

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Creative team
Creative Producer Susie Leigh
Puppetry Director Helen Rickards
Designer Ken Evans
Additional music Paul Baeyertz
Producer (Adelaide) Cate Fowler
Narrator Frederick Parslow (Melbourne)
Kerry Walker (Adelaide)
Musicians (Melbourne) Victorian College of the Arts Orchestra
Musicians Adelaide Department of Further Education Orchestra
Puppeteers Carmelina Di Guglielmo
Andrew Hansen
Peter J.Wilson
Winston Appleyard
7 - 8 April, 1983 Concert Hall, Victorian Arts Centre, Melbourne
9 May, 1983 Rotunda Adelaide Zoo, South Australia
Total performances 8
Total audience 10,000

Scroll back to Click Tab: The Production