Theatre review: Pillow Fight, Claremont Showground, Perth

A puppet show about sibling love and rivalry covers a vast terrain of adventures.
Pillow Fight. Against a black backdrop man and woman sit on a bunk bed surrounded by toys and puppets. Beside the bunk are boxes with labels like ’stuff’, ‘junk’, ‘Shane’s cool stuff’ and ‘Nadia’s baby stuff’.

Pillow Fight by Spare Parts Puppet Theatre is a children’s play and puppet show that delves into the mysteries of sibling rivalry and bonhomie, the oscillation between antipathy and camaraderie that animates most sibling relationships. While sparring over who is to be held culpable for a past misdeed, a brother and sister duo, Shane and Nadia, retrace and recreate their childhood games in order to definitively determine who was in the wrong on the day in question. Unexpectedly but endearingly, they rediscover their affection for each other in the process.

Their fun childhood adventures are enacted with puppets. From a frolicking jaunt into magical forests to a raucous adventure in outer space and finally a courtroom denouement, the puppets in the show cover a vast terrain and take the viewer on a joyous journey. 

This is a delightfully clever show designed and presented by talented creators. The dexterous performers, Shane Adamczak and Nadia Martich, move seamlessly between spellbinding live-action and puppeteering segments, showcasing their versatility and perfect sense of timing. Their puppeteering and vocal skills are amazing and they perform their roles so enthusiastically.

The stage design is innovative; a bedroom and bunk beds double up as a platform or stage-within-a-stage for the puppets. The lighting design skilfully incorporates shadow puppetry with silhouettes into the performance. The puppets themselves, from fairy tale creatures to robots and aliens, have been designed and created by clever minds and meticulous hands. Puppets refashioned from nostalgia-inducing 1980s and 90s memorabilia vivify the concluding segment of the show.  

There is something magical about the confluence of the performing arts and handicrafts in puppeteering. It transports the viewer back to a time and space in childhood that is unconstrained by the ready-made play afforded by digital technology, where the untrammelled imagination must conceive of the tools and generate the substance of adventure.

Read: Theatre review: You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Geelong Arts Centre

This show demonstrates the enduring appeal of the hands-on art of puppeteering. The incredible stagecraft of the performers and the ingenuity of the designers and creatives involved in Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, a WA institution and gem, make the experience of watching the craft come to life all the more enjoyable. 

Pillow Fight
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre
Claremont Showground, Perth

Director and co-Creator: Philip Mitchell 
Writer and co-Creator: Sam Longley
Designer: Leon Hendroff 
Composer: Lee Buddle 
Lighting designer: Megan Fitzgerald 
Puppet Makers: Leon Hendroff, Jackson Harrison, Shane Adamczak
Production Manager: Megan Fitzgerald
Co-Creators: Alicia Osyka, Shane Adamczack

Performers: Nadia Martich, Shane Adamczak 

Tickets: $26-28

Pillow Fight will be performed until 26 January 2024.

Arjun Rajkhowa lives in Perth and enjoys writing about local arts and culture.