Spare Parts Puppet Theatre’s Nobody Owns the Moon tugs at Michael Barlow heartstrings

L to r: Geoff Kelso, Michael Barlow (sitting) Shirley Van Sanden, Jessica Lewis and Yvan Karlsson. Picture: Jon Hewson.
L to r: Geoff Kelso, Michael Barlow (sitting) Shirley Van Sanden, Jessica Lewis and Yvan Karlsson. Picture: Jon Hewson.

THE beauty and emotion of Tohby Riddle’s Australian picture book Nobody Owns the Moon was the reason Spare Parts Puppet Theatre director and writer Michael Barlow wanted to create a stage adaptation for the Fremantle-based puppetry company.

“I was really drawn to the quite emotional core of the story,” Barlow said.

“It has something meaningful to say about what makes someone feel at home somewhere and what makes them feel part of the life of a place.

“And it has Tohby’s lovely wit and comedy which we’ve used as a springboard; I hope it will bring a lot of laughs to the audience.”

The production, using hand puppets, marionettes and masks, follows two animal character friends, Humphrey (donkey) and Clive (fox), living in a big city.

Humphrey, who is a bit down on his luck, receives an invitation to a night at the theatre through an act of chance and he and Clive have a wonderful experience.

“There’s an idea in the story about what’s really valuable; Humphrey gives his warmth and friendship very freely,” Barlow said.

“He doesn’t really take anything from anyone but by some measures we would look at him and say he’s not successful because he doesn’t have a steady job or big income, but he does have a very big heart.”

The production, for ages five years and older, features performers Yvan Karlsson, Geoff Kelso, Jessica Lewis and Shirley Van Sanden and was co-created with Spare Parts legend Noriko Nishimoto before she died in May.

The 75-year-old Japanese-born puppeteer had called WA and Spare Parts home since 1982 and her influence on Barlow and the rest of the company was immense.

Nobody Owns the Moon was the last production Nishimoto worked on.

“Her input to the show was massive and if she had still been with us through the later stages of making it, she would have continued to influence its shape,” Barlow said.

“We all miss her presence and contribution; I hope the work does justice to her.

“I’d worked with Noriko for many years, first as a trainee puppeteer and then later as an assistant director and co-devisor, and in more recent years she mentored my development as a director.

“I can only say it was a massive pleasure to work with such a gifted artist and there are many of us who would lay a lot of thanks at her feet for what she achieved in the art form.”


What: Nobody Owns the Moon

Where: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, 1 Short St, Fremantle

When: September 24 to October 8