The Last Wave

Performance 8 March, 1987
Venue Swanston St, Melbourne, Melbourne Moomba Festival

Handspan Theatre Last Wave street float in Swanston St Melbourne

The Last Wave Swanston St Melbourne, Moomba Festival 1987
Photograph: © Steven Henderson, 1987

THE LAST WAVE was created by Handspan Theatre commissioned by the City of Melbourne for its entry in the 1987 Moomba Parade.

The Festival theme for 1987 was Moomba Goes to the Movies. Parade entries were required to be based on a film title, and Handspan chose Peter Weir's film, The Last Wave.

The processional production was paraded by almost all of Handspan's members at the time, supplemented by a few close colleagues, as the parade imagery and its articulation demands grew. It was produced for one performance only, but seen by thousands of viewers in Melbourne's main thoroughfare and a television audience of more than a million.

The Last Wave on parade for Moomba, Melbourne 1987
Compiled by Andrew Bleby 2016
For Part 1, Construction, see Last Wave Gallery

THE LAST WAVE was devised and designed by Trina Parker, Ken Evans and Philip Lethlean it was built by company members under Philip's production management.

Handspan Theatre Last Wave floats in the street flanked by lifesaver puppets and displaying the parade award

The Last Wave Award winning parade entry
Click photos to enlarge

Handspan Theatre Last Wave float of a large foam hand

Leading Sandcastle float

Handspan Theatre Last Wave Swanston St Melbourne breaking wave float

Final Breaking Wave float
Photographs © Stephen Henderson, 1987

Three floats provided the overall image of waves heading remorselessly to the shoreline. Each float itself carried a continuously animated centrepiece on a platform wheeled by several live operators and was accompanied by a cluster of smaller scale, individually operated images of churning waves. which linked the whole to form the 30 metre-long pageant entry.

Handspan Theatre Last Wave five people wearing hats in the shape of waves

Wave headwear portrait Fr L: Stephen Armstrong, Bob Burton, Andrew Hansen, Sue Smith & Fiona Syme
Photograph © Stephen Henderson, 1987

Lifesavers represented by animated rows of capped legs led the pageant. A sandcastle float, its ramparts a forest of waving hands, followed. Then, small cityscapes were engulfed over and over again by waves, preceding a huge tin wave that sounded thunderously at it rolled and broke repeatedly. The final image was a Hokusai-style spray of foam and bubbles inside the palm of of a towering upright hand, that crashed open and closed tumbling constantly as it travelled.

The construction of the work and its large scale images required the company to hire an abandoned local corner garage space as temporary workshop space for floats to be built and rehearsed on its oily tarmac and in the neighbouring streets.

On the morning of the parade, 28 performers assembled for rehearsal on the garage driveway and refined their performance on the 3 kilometre walk to the parade starting point in Lygon St Carlton. From there THE LAST WAVE began its 2 kilometre performance through the Melbourne CBD, along Swanston St and across Princes Bridge.The images were large and not easy to operate so that it was an exhausted company that reached the procession's end where THE LAST WAVE was awarded the Mayor's Cup for Most Original Entry.

Handspan Theatre The Last Wave Moomba Award 1987 group photo of people in a park with trophy cup held aloft

The Last Wave Post parade company celebration

Scroll back to Click Tab: The People

Creative team
Project convenors Philip Lethlean, Trina Parker, Ken Evans
Devised & designed by Philip Lethlean, Trina Parker, Ken Evans
Production team
Company above

Scroll back to Click Tab: The Production

On the Street: