Miss Lily’s Fabulous Feather Boa (4 stars)

Spare Parts Puppet Theatre right on the footsteps of Fremantle Train Station has a great reputation for providing great entertainment for children. Sitting outside on a hot summer’s day, children are running around, slapping their slap band tickets on and off their arms – waiting to get into the air-conditioned theatre. Entering the theatre, bits of feather boa scattered all over the floor after the kids have been playing with them, the stage is set up with a set of steps and a beaded doorway. A sign next to the doorway says “Miss Lily’s Tropical Holiday House.”

This is Michael Barlow’s adaption of Margaret Wild’s picture book Miss Lily’s Fabulous Feather Boa. The production shows the true talent of Spare Parts veterans Shane Adamzack and Bec Bradley and newcomer Nick Pages-Oliver and they are hilarious from the start. The puppetry and costuming by Iona McAuley, is simple and elegant. The three actors come on stage wearing koala head hats. They hilariously portray a mother, father and son who are obsessed with cricket. Giggles erupt from the children as Pages-Oliver plays the bumbling koala kid with a cold.

The koala hats are replaced with wombat hats to depict the footy-obessessed family of father, mother and son. They truly are hilarious and are able to use the agility of their bodies and their voices to capture the essence of Australiana: Footy or Cricket? After the families are introduced, we meet the last Potooroo. He is a diminutive hand puppet, manipulated by Adamzack, and is an identifiable character. A hilariously choreographed attempt to lift a suitcase almost bigger than him up the stairs has children giggling uncontrollably. The final puppet is Miss Lily herself – a full-bodied crocodile operated by Bradley and voiced in a hilarious campy tone, she is clearly the winner in the show.

Some beautiful puppetry occurs in Miss Lily, including a mesmerising sequence in which the feather boa dances ala Muppet style, and a creepy dream including a monstrous cannibalistic suitcase. Irreverent and hilarious, the ending literally garners an audible ‘awww.’

Miss Lily’s Fabulous Feather Boa is playing at Spare Parts Puppet Theatre in Fremantle, Perth from 4 – 30 January 2016.