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If A THEATRE THAT PAYS

By Barbara

Henderson

'ENTATWELY, humbly,

without any sounding trumpets, a small group "6 up the curtain on a Wet theatre in Clovelly '£ years ago.

JKy had planned an eight

;l season, with live drama to low,

tat 160 children and adults '«ed the first Saturday tooon performance.

hen months later young audi <! were still applauding the «ions. In fact, only the '«liber heat and lack of mat i finally drove .the group 5 the stage.

'».day the Clovelly theatre is

of the most stable and suc

T1 dramatic ventures in Aus k It has even achieved the T American criterion of cf »cy and pays for itself.

j^J the launching of this

'dramatic venture was unpre

|5¡»! »s birth was even more

ble.

*as conceived out of the de Ma National Emergency Ser ' Sroup to continue working «r after World War 11, the 5 a municipal council and

of clumsy carpentry.

'Heir corporate project after ifr. an N.E.S. group, centred pelly, set up a children's V «J a chemist shop.

'«n books and children mul ?" «mbarrassingly the Rand

wuncil presented them with

1 army hut and allowed ?J0 eiect il on council (M Burnie Park.

« rtunately, there was only TIder in the group, and

B'le hut was finished-about

«J later-much of the en «m and many of the volun ?i*"? had evaporated.

K-Wh° remained asked the,

,1\ Llbr<iry and Craft ?»wt to take over the build

?ott

carpentry followed.

A scene from "Sea Fantasy," telling the story of a wicked octopus and Us

threat to steal a mermaid's baby. This tvas a Clovelly production.

Led by Mr. L. F. Keller-at that time inspector in charge of drama in public schools - and Mrs. Edith Murray, secretary of the newly formed Puppetry Guild, a second group of amat- eurs bruised their thumbs and their tempers to achieve a mari- onette and puppet stage.

FOR their first performance the

Clovelly group had to go to" Melbourne for help. It borrowed four sets of marionettes from Mr. W. D. Nichol, a lecturer in puppetry and allied crafts at the Teachers' College, who was spreading the gospel and the magic of this branch of theatre in Victoria at the time.

(Radio and stage artists

anxious to study dramatic craft -were helping him.)

But from the first season on, children working at Library Movement centres and group members themselves modelled, painted, dressed or carved the tiny characters.

MRS. MURRAY-a slight,

grey-haired grandmother .with the touch of the Pied Piper or Peter Pan-breathed life and warmth into the productions.

And she tells the story:

"1 discovered puppets about 20 years ago as a means of keeping a lot of young State wards oc- cupied, and took over at Clovelly about six weeks after the theatre opened.

"The movement had engaged an operator, but a tram strike isolated the theatre and she could not reach it.

"We've always tried to preserve dramatic tradition, so on the basis of 'the show must gd on,' I stepped in and went out to Clov- elly to sleep . . .

"We try to secure a balance in our programmes.

"Kiddies under five love slap- stick and stories they know. They're never more happy than when the puppets are knocking each other about. But older youngsters appreciate a higher

dramatic content.

"On each programme we try to present a well-known tale, a play in which the children have

had some part and a new pro- duction-even if it is only a topi-

cal sketch built around our two ; constant identities - 'Donald ; Clovelly' and 'P.C.99'.

"I made Donald in front of the j children - modelled him one j week, painted him the next and j dressed him the third-and he's j the puppet the children talk to. j

"We don't try to educate dir- j ectly, but on one occasion, when j a box of detonators had been j mislaid in a park, we introduced j a warning into our performance | -and quite naturally Donald put I it over." ] BY tradition the Clovelly j

theatre now opens on the first j day after Easter. And, just I as traditionally, a queue of small ¡ figures tails away from the door | each Good Friday morning. ¡

They come to help with the ¡ annual spring clean. ¡

Chairs, forms and, the inside ¡ of the hut are painted, with jobs | allotted in strict rotation on a ¡ strictly numerical basis-four f children at a time. I

The council does its bit and | paints the outside-this year a ¡ bright red roof and pale green ¡ walls. 1

Puppets are brushed off, mari- 1 onettes dusted and another seven- | month season begins. |

So far, statistically speaking, I these seasons could not have been j more successful. |

Adults pay 1/ for admittance, | children ninepence. |

Last year more than 3,000 at- | tended, the average being 76 § children and 10 adults to each | show. |

Roughly, 100 marionettes and | 200 puppets have replaced the |

borrowed Melbourne sets. =

The theatre has developed a { repertoire of 30 regular plays, | and seven to eight groups-born _ of the theatre's need-now give = visiting seasons each year. Í

Digitisation generously supported by
Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation
Digitisation generously supported by

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