Australian company established in Fremantle, Western Australia in 1981 by L. Peter Wilson with writer Cathryn Robinson and puppet-maker/designer Beverley Campbell-Jackson. Financial support for Spare Parts Puppet Theatre came from both the federal and state governments. Beverley Campbell-Jackson had been recruited to puppetry by Peter Scriven when she was living in Malaysia and had made puppets for his 1975 production of The New Tintookies for the Marionette Theatre of Australia. She had also made puppets for Wilson’s Tasmanian Puppet Theatre.
All three had previously worked on a production of Faust with students for the 1981 Perth Festival, together with the Japanese puppeteers Takeshi Hoshino, of PUK Puppet Theatre (Ningyō-Gekidan PŪKU), and Noriko Nishimoto from La Clarte Puppet Theatre (Ningyō-Gekidan Kurarute). Nishimoto became Associate Director of Spare Parts Puppet Theatre in 1982, and was Artistic Director from 1997 to 2001, and continues to be associated with the company.
International exchange was fostered by L. Peter Wilson. Josef Krofta from Divadlo DRAK (DRAK Theatre) directed Kalévala (1985) with puppets designed by Petr Matásek, and American Eric Bass directed The Little Girl Whose Father Was a Rabbit by Swedish playwright Gösta Kjellin in 1988. This production was the first in Spare Parts newly built puppet theatre. Also in 1988, with members of the Shanghai Puppet Troupe, a rod puppet production was created which relocated the Monkey King story to the Chinese community in early Australian goldfields. In 1996, Roman Paska of the United States directed Moby Dick based on Herman Melville’s novel.
In 1990, the company created Rainmaker, a myth-based puppet play for children by a leading Aboriginal playwright, Jack Davis. It was directed by the Perth choreographer, Chrissie Parrott.
Philip Mitchell, who had previously been with Terrapin Puppet Theatre in Hobart, succeeded Noriko Nishimoto as Artistic Director in late 2001. He aims to create works that appeal equally to children and adults, and not always for regular theatregoers: works that will tour far beyond the company’s home state. An outstanding success at the 2004 Perth International Festival was Mitchell’s production of H2O, a story of drought performed in its very antithesis, an Olympic-sized swimming pool! The central character, played by a live dancer, appeared to walk on water, and her bed became a “ship of dreams”. Of the six performers, two were scuba divers.
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre organized the 20th International Congress and Festival of UNIMA in Perth in 2008 on behalf of UNIMA Australia.
In 2009, their award-winning adaptation of Shaun Tan’s The Arrival was selected to open the World Festival of Puppetry in Charleville-Mézières. This production smoothly mixes front and rear animated projection, live actors and puppets in a polished non-verbal performance.