The Age, 16 August 2020
Local puppet makers need a giant hand
More than eight million people have now been freaked out by Everybody Isolates, a surreal video in which a giant hand and a giant eye flee the giant snotty nose at their workplace for a frolic at home.
It’s the work of Melbourne theatre company Snuff Puppets, who are thrilled by the interest. But interest doesn’t pay the bills.
So on Monday they launch a new “puppet adoption campaign”, aiming to raise money to support their survival under the city’s continued lockdown. If all goes well, by the end of it they will have raised funds to keep the lights on: and, naturally, to build a giant eight-metre-tall heart that will wander the streets of Melbourne (iso rules permitting), spurting blood onto the footpath.
“It’s symbolic of the kind of love, the kind of emotion that’s needed in these times,” says Snuff Puppets artistic director Andy Freer. “Vulnerability, but also strength and power.”
His near-30-year-old company, based in Footscray, has lost $100,000 worth of work so far this year, with tours to Europe and Africa and a project in Taiwan on hold – and pretty much all their local work off as well.
They came up with the plan for a fundraising campaign in May and had hoped to launch it with a live gala at their HQ, but now it will have to happen online.
They’re diving into filmmaking thanks to the success of Everybody Isolates, Freer says. The money raised (which will be matched dollar for dollar by the federal government-supported Creative Partnerships Australia) will help them pursue this, as well as paying for planned upgrades to their venue, the maintenance of hundreds of puppets, the development of new shows and the employment of artists.
“Like most small independent theatre companies we live off the smell of an oily rag,” Freer says. But you don’t just get the satisfaction of supporting them, you can “become part of the ongoing life of the company” – with puppets up for “adoption” at the higher donation tiers.