|Premiere||14 May 1991|
|Venue||The Space, Adelaide Festival Centre, Come Out Festival, Adelaide, SA|
THE READING BOY was created by Handspan based on a concept by Peter J.Wilson and developed while he was co-Artistic Director of the company in 1990. Peter was inspired by the Australian Paper Mill (AMP) at Fairfield, in inner Melbourne, where he regularly recycled his newspapers. Tossing them down a chute into a vast sea of newsprint and cardboard that was churned and mashed to pulp by the mill’s machines, he envisaged the location for a new play for young audiences.
The original idea was explored in a creative development workshop in 1989 with John Romeril who was commissioned to write the play with the company and composer, Boris Conley. Designed by Richard Jeziorny (staging and images) and Philip Lethlean (lighting) for in-theatre performance for primary school age audiences, it was originally directed by Peter J.Wilson for its premiere season at the Come Out '91 Festival in Adelaide.
THE READING BOY was the story of a boy who is entranced by his favourite book, Enquire Within About Everything and the wonders it reveals. He discovers the book has been accidentally thrown out in the recycling and determined to retrieve it, adventures on its trail through the newsprint pile at his nearby paper mill.
The play followed a narrative text led by a larrikin Crow, who acted as ringmaster of the action, with the charm of a born raconteur1 . Throughout the play, the nine-year-old Boy, played by an actor, was enveloped in images and illusions animated in mixed puppetry styles - black theatre, shadow play, rod, glove and body/mask costume puppetry. Machinery and paper became fantasy characters - a rather jaded talking book and a flashy recycling robot - in a world where paper and words came alive in flurries and upheavals of newsprint.
THE READING BOY was generally well-received by critics and audiences:
The production's creative team received positive accolades, as did the cast, particularly, the Crow (John Rogers), but some some reviews were tempered with criticism of the play itself or elements of its staging:
In 1992, Jon Stephens directed the production with some new cast members for touring the Out of the Box Festival in Brisbane and Queensland regional towns in 1982, and again for a season in Canberra in 1993. In Canberra, although dwarfed by the large venue, the production was critically recommended despite some continuing commentary about uneven connections between the elements of the work.
|Production/Stage manager||Paul Judd (1991 & 1992), Mikkel Mynster (1993)|
|Assistant Stage Manager||Cliff Dolliver|
|Production manager||Paul Judd|
|Puppet makers||Paul Newcombe, Mary Sutherland, Joanna Pullen, Rob Last, Ingrid Maganov|
|Set construction||Paul Newcombe, Colin Orchard, Ken Evans, Horse|
|Research assistant||James Hutchinson|
|Graphic design||Fiona Sweet|
|14 May -||The Space, Adelaide Festival Centre, Come Out '91 Festival, Adelaide SA|
|21 - 31 May||Alexander Theatre, Clayton, Victoria|
|8 - ? July||George Fairfax Theatre, Winterarts program, Victorian Arts Centre, Melbourne|
|15 - 20 June||Lyric Theatre, Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Out of the Box Festival, Brisbane, Qld|
|Regional Queensland tour, Mount Isa and other locations, Queensland Arts Council|
|? - ? Sept||Canberra Theatre, ACT|
|Total performances||53 (1991& 1992 ) 9 (1993)|
|Total audience||13,354 (1991 & 1992 only)|