When’s the last time you saw a puppet show?
I saw one this morning. A Little Bit of Blue by Jenny Ellis. It looked like this:
We’re at a childcare centre. We all watch Mrs Mavis Hooley, as cute an elderly stout lady puppet as you’ll ever see, search for her missing ten dollars. When she falls asleep, a blue bird (complete with robber mask) chuckles into her house and steals her knitting. The children cry out, ‘Wake up!’ and Mavis’s fluffy little dog, Mufti, has menace in his eye.
Mrs Hooley gets no assistance from police and the case goes to a keen Detective with glasses, moustache and rather unfortunate nose. First, seek clues! Then set a trap – with chippies and a hole in the floor – catching Mufti, of course. Once Mrs Hooley looses her hair, it’s back to the clues, the drawing board (can anyone draw the legs on the bird? What about the eyes?) and what do you know, the robber is caught. The ten dollars is blue, the knitting is blue and so is Mrs Hooley’s hair. The blue bird is a satin bower bird, building the stolen blue objects into his nest, as they do.
Given his freedom by Mavis and the Detective, the bower bird is able to attract a fetching young maiden-bird to his bower. With the assistance of the bopping/pogoing audience, the bird is able to do a persuasive dance and finally, their combined feathers are thrown together in the air, as they do.
Jenny Ellis performs the show single handed, adding an information session showing the children pictures of real bowers and bower birds, encouraging them to repeat the name of the bird (we’re talking some as young as eighteen months here) to stir a little bit of education into the hilarity.
Apart from her relationship with children – her relationship with real live humans and educational responsibilities, Jenny has taken her own childhood affiliation with birds and creatures into a degree in Social Ecology, Environmental Education and Environmental Biology. She’s enthusiastic about inspiring children about Australian birds and animals, believing most Aussie kids know more about lions and zebras than they do about echidnas, wallabies and satin bowerbirds. And what amazing birds they are. Check this World’s Weirdest Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U89tw093s_Y
But, really, the bird’s compulsion is not so weird. The creative drive essential to the bird is synonymous with the creativity of humans. Like the bowerbird we have to express ourselves, perhaps not just to get a mate, but in the case of Jenny, at least to pay her rent. Human artistic endeavour is, for most people, necessary. Those who have quashed their crafty urges lead unfulfilled, sad empty lives. Not kidding.
It’s never too late. Go collect blue bits! Learn from the birds! Why, you could even make a puppet!