Richard Bradshaw and Tina Matthews

Richard Bradshaw and Tina Matthews worked together in the Marionette Theatre of Australia, as artistic director and puppet maker respectively. The Marionette Theatre was housed in the old Sailors’ Home in Sydney’s historic Rocks area. In this entertaining interview Tina and Richard recall particular plays and identities from the magical world of marionettes as well as discussing shifting fashions in puppetry, funding, staffing and performance and technical issues. In the excerpt below Richard recalls one memorable late 1970s show: ‘Captain Lazar and His Earthbound Circus’

About that time we did the ‘Captain Lazar and his Earthbound Circus’ and two of those puppets are in the Museum of Democracy in Canberra at the entrance of the Prime Ministers’ Gallery.  How about that? Di [Manson] knew Patrick Cook who had written a [cartoon] strip for the Nation Review – or was it the National Times? – anyway, one of those magazines, called ‘Captain Lazar and his Earthbound Circus’ and suggested this might make a good show.  It was quite bizarre stuff, bizarre character, but it was basically a plot where Captain Lazar was trying to get this circus together and first he’s recruiting characters, but it is undermined by two characters, one The Great Orlando who looked very like Sir John Kerr, the former governor general, and the other was a koala tamer [resembling then Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser]. Patrick wanted to call him Martin Bormann – but the board said “Oh, no, you can’t do that”.  So we called him Morton Barman.  And the upshot of that: finally we had Malcolm Fraser come along to a fundraiser for the Marionette Theatre, and he was photographed working this puppet and it went all ‘round Australia.  He looked quite happy as he worked; it was a nice photo.  So we did it for the Adelaide Festival. We divided even the critics. One critic wrote “Well, they were laughing, but I couldn’t see why” but others did enjoy it.  The music was great; it was Robyn Archer, she wrote the songs.

Margaret Leask