Argus is not a typical puppetry experience. Brisbane-based Dead Puppet Society has found a unique way of creating puppets, with four puppeteers (Nathan Booth, Laura Hague, Matthew Seery and Anna Straker) bringing the central character, Argus, alive through the use of their hands.
Their movements are executed with precision and they provide the voices for the puppets, as well as incidental sound effects: their puppetry work is slick and highly skilled. Although Argus is essentially only hands and a couple of LED lights, he is remarkably expressive, with similarities to ET.
The young audience at the Come Out festival show was intrigued and attached to the character, and the small performing area at the Space Theatre kept them focused and interpreting events throughout the performance.
A large circular segmented satellite dish rotated to create mini landscapes for a variety of settings. Argus establishes the notion of hands creating living creatures by first demonstrating life forms that come out of the primordial slime.
The show uses mostly household items for props, plus the occasional toy, to create environments and a magical world. Argus’s friends are accidentally collected by a large rubbish truck (a small bin on a trolley with bright headlights), so he embarks on a journey to find them. He travels on a pirate ship, under the sea, in the desert and on the moon.
John Babbage’s original score is superb: it drives the action and provides the perfect accompaniment for each of the scenes.
Argus is a demanding, challenging and intriguing production for young children.
Dead Puppet Society presented Argus at the Space Theatre on May 23-24 as part of the Come Out Children’s Festival, which continues until May 30.