|Premiere||9 November, 1990, Castlemaine State Festival|
|Venue||Castlemaine Library Hall|
THE WOODEN CHILD explored the subject of boys’ relationships with their fathers and men’s emotional responses to childbirth. It was subject matter close to the lives of Handspan artists several of whom were themselves beginning to have children and experience the complicated reality and conflicting emotions of parenthood at the time this work was produced.
The work was first conceived in discussions during production of Running Up A Dress by Suzanne Spunner. produced by Home Cooking Company in 1986. Carmelina Di Guglielmo and Meredith Rogers performed the play about housewifely roles and realities, and on the sidelines, their husbands, Ken Evans and Ken Harper became inspired to plan a new work about 'men's business'. Putting in a Diff, conceptually in it first plan, to be staged around Ken Evans' 1960s red holden ute.
In the following years, the play evolved, written by Ken Harper during his wife's pregnancy and based on workshops with male colleagues at Handspan, Ken Evans, Rod Primrose and Peter J.Wilson, with woodcraftsman, Barry Mills.
THE WOODEN CHILD was staged in black theatre on a full stage, and set in a carpenter’s workshop.
Its plot wove three father-son narratives together. Carlo Collodi's story of Pinocchio paralleled a story of an adult making toys for his unborn child while reflecting on his own childhood relationship with his father. The carved wooden puppet became the young boy watching his father go off to business and to war - always distant. The carpenter's nurturing love
The carpenter, played by Rod Primrose carved wooden characters and toys with a nuturing love that illustrated his potential to be both a creator and a destroyer as they became animated by him and around him.
Predominantly critics were impressed:
The production moved some audience members to send notes of affirmation about their emotional response to the work. Two are reproduced in this document: Fan Letters to The Wooden Child (pdf)
One Melbourne writer only, didn't agree:
THE WOODEN CHILD production team included workshop assistant Kevin Berton, supported by the Schizophrenia Fellowship of Victoria's Work Rehabiliation Program. and a video of his successful experience working in Handspan's Gertrude St Studio to build the work was produced to support Vichealth's campaign message for 1990 - Schizophrenia - a treatable illness:
|Puppet & prop makers||Rob Matson with Paul Newcombe, Philip Millar, Mary Sutherland, Horse|
|Set construction||Barry Mills|
|Workshop assistant||Kevin Berton|
|Production & Stage Manager||Jo Sapir|
|Sound operator||Andree Greenwell|
|Sound engineer||Nigel Frayne|
|9 - 11 November 1990||Castlemaine Library Hall, Castlemaine State Festival, Victoria|
|14 Nov – 9 December 1990||Universal Theatre, Fitzroy, Victoria|
|4 Jan -19 January 1991||The Playhouse, Sydney Opera House, Festival of Sydney, NSW|
|Total performances||25 (1990 est); 19 (1991)|
|Total audience||2950 (1990 est); 1,100 (1991)|