Stark and Dormy is the latest offering by local award-winning group Bunk Puppets, and is the ultimate dark comedy adventure featuring puppetry, sketch comedy, and unabashedly cool Lo-Fi effects.  Written by Jeff Achtem, James Pratt and Christian Bagin, Stark and Dormy promises an innovative and exciting addition to this year’s MICF line-up.

As well as co-writers, Melbourne Comedy Festival’s Barry Award nominee and Green Room Award nominee, James Pratt, performs this delicious tale with Christian Bagin and the formidable trio is complete with direction by Jeff Achtem.

I ask Pratt about the genesis of the show, creative inspirations and their reasons for writing it.

“The genesis is… well there are many. Essentially, I worked with Jeff to learn his iconic solo puppet show Swamp Juice and then when he was looking to make a new show he called and said “I want to make a new show, you keen?”. We marked out time and got into it. I know that this is a new style for Bunk Puppets and that the process isn’t so puppet-lead, it’s more story and performer lead.

It’s got some really great characters to it. I think there’s a bit of Jaws to it. The thing about Jaws is that it’s a monster movie where the fear factor is created not so much with a scary looking beast, but the implication. The imagination of the scary beast. The other thing about that film is it’s really a story about a guy trying to make a new life in a new town.

In our show, yes there is a monster but it’s really a story about a Dad and his daughter and their fractured relationship. “

Operating since 2010, and based in Melbourne,  Bunk Puppets are a multi-award winning company creating cutting edge shadow puppet theatre – and therein lies the uniqueness of thus troupe of creatives and their work.

“It’s the simple beauty of shadow puppets, with stupid characters telling a great story,” says Pratt. “It’s a triple threat. We’ve worked hard to bring out all these elements to make it a fast and engaging work.”

 Pratt, along with fellow creatives, has been inspired and challenged by the plot/story.

“We’ve pawed and gnashed our teeth and rolled our eyes many times over the story,” he says.

“Story is hard, and if you get it wrong it sucks and we’ve worked a lot on it. With all the stuff that the both of us have to perform, the choreography of who goes where and when and does what exactly and puts what puppets where, that is a brain smasher. We’ve worked hard on that because it needs to look effortless and easy. I always feel that when I’m watching a performer and you kind of feel like, “Yeah, you know, I reckon I could do that” then you’re looking at a lot of “work”. No one wants to watch a lot of work, they want to watch ease.”

After making a version of this show for the Melbourne Fringe Pratt and Achtem decided to do a MICF season.

“Thing is, Jeff is expecting a baby right in the middle of the MICF so he was like, “We need to get someone else in”, and we both thought of Christian Bagin,” says Pratt about Bagin’s inclusion in the trio. “New babies are unpredictable and you can’t be doing a show when you get the call.

I remember way back in the day when I was performing with my comedy trio The 4 Noels we had a show on and my wife was due around the time of our season. I had the phone on out the back and I was crossing fingers. Very tense place to perform from, terrifying really.  Lucky my daughter was late.

So, Christian came on board and we had a massive re-write and it’s a stronger show. “

A trio of writers, I hear you say – yes, can be tough but for Pratt and his fellow creatives it’s a system that works…well…”Free form, it’s chaos, it’s dog eat dog,” he quips

“No, it’s free form and you just jam. Sometimes you have to convince and negotiate and say “I can’t see it” but let’s just move on. There are many times when there’s a problem in the story and we all just stand around throwing ideas at it and nothing sticks, you just continue to go back to the problem and work it until you solve it. Once you’ve solved it on paper you need to then try and make it work on the floor and once again there’s a lot of mucking around.

The rehearsals then get them to a place where they have pretty much locked down the script. “You can’t just invent a new puppet character a week out, it’s not feasible,” says Pratt. “In performance we then find more about how to deliver the work. We’ll tweak or rework dialogue or gags because the audience is such a big part of the show, in regards to how it lands.”

Now, an audience is required because, according to Pratt, puppets will die if you don’t come!

“No, look it will be a great night out. I know theatre is a low percentage bet for a night out; it’s usually hellishly expensive (not the case for this show) and you feel like you have to dress up and you can’t be bothered and then you can’t find a bloody park or the parking is prohibitively expensive and then you go and sit in a dark room and it feels like you’ve entered a hostage situation. We’ve worked hard to try and not make it a night that you look back on and say “I’ll never get that time back.”

I’m not the best person in regards to my lack of impartiality to recommend this show, but I have made quite a few shows in my time and I’m genuinely excited about offering this up to a paying audience. “

March 28 – April 21

www.malthousetheatre.com.au and www.comedyfestival.com.au

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