Black Swan Theatre’s The Red Balloon brings puppetry to life.

L-R Ben Mortley (South Perth), St John Cowcher (Highgate), Ella Hetherington (Fremantle) and Sarah Nelson (Hamilton Hill). Picture: Andrew Ritchie d443713
L-R Ben Mortley (South Perth), St John Cowcher (Highgate), Ella Hetherington (Fremantle) and Sarah Nelson (Hamilton Hill). Picture: Andrew Ritchie d443713

HIGHGATE actor and puppeteer St John Cowcher did not quite know what to expect when cast as ‘Other’ in Black Swan State Theatre Company’s The Red Balloon.

“Ben Mortley is playing the Rat, Sarah Nelson is playing the Cat and Ella Hetherington is playing Pigeon,” Cowcher said.

“I soon found out ‘Other’ meant I was playing a series of characters; the most prominent are the Headmaster, who is quite an uptight, rule and time-obsessed man, and then the Grandmother who is a battleaxe of a woman.

“It’s a lot of fun playing various characters because it means I get to play with physicality and bring in some comedy, and then I get to be a puppeteer as well, so it’s the best of both worlds.”

The Red Balloon is based on the book and 1956 Academy Award-winning short film of the same name, adapted by Hilary Bell as conceived by emerging artist India Mehta.

Chrissie Parrott is directing the 45-minute new Australian work, which is the company’s first family production created for children six to 12 years and part of the 2015 AWESOME International Arts Festival for Bright Young Things program.

“They’re dipping their toe into the family market and I think it’s great for the flagship theatre company in Perth to be engaging with the AWESOME Festival, which is such a wonderful festival,” Cowcher said.

“I was lucky enough to be a part of it years ago when we did Hachiko for Spare Parts Puppet Theatre in the spiegeltent.”

The story is set in Paris and follows a young boy who discovers a red balloon tangled around a lamppost on his way to school.

He soon realises the balloon has a mind of its own and the two explore the neighbourhood in search of adventure.

“It’s a journey of finding courage and finding friendship, while surviving the trials and tribulations life can throw at you,” Cowcher said.

“People try to drag you down and you have to find that buoyancy and the balloon is a beautiful symbol for that.

“It’s a beautiful story about finding lightness when there’s not necessarily lightness there.”

The four adult actors are joined by a talented young cast ranging from ages 8-13 who Cowcher said looked the part in the rehearsal space.

“You see them standing there with the red balloon and it’s like a snapshot,” he said.

“It’s a show of magic, beauty and really striking images.”

THE ESSENTIALS

What: The Red Balloon

Where: Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre of WA

When: October 1 to 17

Tickets: www.ticketek.com.au