KAILAH Cabanas became a puppeteer by accident when it was required for her first job out of drama school.
“It was for children’s television show The Amazing House,” Cabanas said.
“The producer asked me if I’d ever done puppetry before and I lied through my teeth and said ‘yeah, sure’.
“It came somewhat naturally and was a lot of fun. It’s funny how one job can lead into another.”
The 31-year-old Sydneysider has since come to specialise in large-scale puppetry, working on productions including War Horse Australia, Erth Dinosaur Zoo and Cirque du Soleil’s Toruk the First Flight.
She said she simply loved the magic of puppetry.
“It’s captivating and War Horse was my favourite because the audience knows it’s an inanimate object and you ask them to believe with you,” Cabanas said.
“It’s funny how you can get attached to something that isn’t real but has so much heart and soul. We ask the audience to have an imagination and to join this journey with us.”
Cabanas is working with a much smaller and lighter puppet during her time in Spot Live On Stage, based on the much-loved children’s books by Eric Hill.
“I’ve come to realise that Spot is a bit of a rock star wherever we go,” she said.
“So many generations grew up with him and have that nostalgic attachment.
“You hear the kids respond every time Spot or one of the other characters comes out on stage. It’s like the books are coming to life right in front of them.”
Cabanas puppeteers Spot’s blue hippopotamus friend Helen and plays human character Jess, Jake’s mum.
Jake is a boy in the show who really wants to read Spot, but his parents are too busy working on the farm.
When they eventually give in, they are immersed into the world of the playful puppy where all the farm animals have disappeared.
“We spend the rest of the play trying to find where the animals are,” Cabanas said.
And just like the books, there are things hiding behind pop-up flaps on stage.
“I hope this introduction into theatre is something special for children and I really believe puppets can help with that.” Cabanas said.
“They might not always connect when they see a person on stage but as soon as they see a puppet as one of their favourite characters they read at night, you see their eyes light up. It’s a very special moment.”
What: Spot Live On Stage
Where: Heath Ledger Theatre
When: October 26 to 29