Chicken Licken – So Long and Thanks for all the Chooks!

Chicken Licken with Melvyn Rawlinson

Melvyn Rawlinson has performing DNA’s much loved golden egg of a show ‘Chicken Licken’ for the past few years and weve loved him taking the show out to new young audiences, in schools and theatres nation wide in the UK!

He writes:

‘There are some shows which may leave an audience pondering on the deeper meanings of life and then there’s others which make you laugh so much that you’re still smiling hours later. And perhaps that’s what I like so much about Chicken Licken, that although there’s elements of jeopardy and anticipation it’s the sound of laughter that is the most pervasive. Because I was running a puppet making workshop after the performance at Leominster Infant school I had plenty of opportunity to hear what was important to the children. Perhaps predictably, many said they liked the slap-stick element and the rather obvious gags like the chicken growing bigger or the fox burning his tail, but I was really surprised by was how much of the word play they had picked up on and wanted to repeat to me. But when you over-hear a teacher saying ‘ it was so funny, I could have sat there all day’ you’re left with a nice feeling which helps with the tedium of the 3 hour drive home.’

Thank you Melvyn for all wonderful storytelling and hard work for DNA, and our best wishes for the future!
Puppetry montages:
Chicken Licken
Pied Piper
Greek Theatre
Outdoor/Walkabouts Montages:
Performances for EVENTS
Farmer Jolly
Herbert the crab who went to sea – full show


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Imaginary Leaps at Meerilinga Childrens Centre , Coolbellup, WA

Session 2 round (2)For the past 8 weeks, Rachel has been playing with families with young children at Meerilinga Childrens Centre, on another early years creative engagement programme here in Coolbellup. Last year , I worked with families here on a CANWA funded project, and it was great to work with Jenny and the team, as well as reconnect with the family groups.

Session 2 round (9)Each week had a different play theme, from the circus, round & round, shadow play nursery rhymes,  tissue play animals, to natural elements – the sea & water, earth & nature play. The last session was Mrs Teapots puppet party, transforming everyday tea party pots and pans into puppets , and telling stories!

meerilinga session 8 mrs teapot 002Feedback from parents included -

San – ‘Excellent organised play’

natureplay 6Claire -’ A fantastic, magical playtime! Heath still plays with the paper boat and little pipecleaner figure we made from water play. He fills up a bucket, and sails it around, always ending up with rough seas! Now everything becomes a puppet and has its own voice.’

meerilinga session 7 (6)Sharene -’Thank you for a wonderful time! Millen takes the little pipe cleaner people to bed with her – they are Daddy & Millen’ – sailing on the sea. She talks about you all the time and every day asks if we are going to see Rachel and Bobby puppet.’

Me, bobby & millencircus 3circus 14meerilinga session 7

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Terry Jones Fairytales at Beaufort St Festival

TJ Tales Beaufort st fest 13 (7) TJ Tales Beaufort st fest 13 (9) TJ Tales Beaufort st fest 13 (13) TJ Tales Beaufort st fest 13 (18) TJ Tales Beaufort st fest 13 (23) TJ Tales Beaufort st fest 13 (30) TJ Tales Beaufort st fest 13 (57) TJ Tales Beaufort st fest 13 (63)

Thurtinkle and Rachel had a great time performing their last shows for the Beaufort St Festival in Perth, WA this year. Although a very hot, sunny day (unusual for Perth!) – we had an enthusiatic audience and a chance to work that microphone technique. Looking forward to further festival events next year, once the heat has worn off a little. Have to be careful Thurtinkles nose doesnt get too sun burnt!

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Imaginary Leaps at REmida,Perth WA

DSC_0986Last month, Rachel was artist in residence at REmida, a recycled resources centre in Perth. as part of her research, she invited her friend’s 3 year old to explore the building and all its contents. He was interested in all things ’round & round’, the rotation schema was evident in his interest in windmills, fans and rotary blade shapes around the centre. This formed the basis of my exploration in the use of recycled materials for early years installations. Focusing on simple but effective movement incorporating the flow of air throught the space with mobiles and hangings.

REmida pd nov13 (49) REmida pd nov13 (54) REmida pd nov13 (58)Rachel also ran two Professional Development workshops in the final week of her residency, focusing on:

Early years Installations for Free Play- Introduction to Imaginary Leaps

  • Making connections – Theatre & Play
  • Tools of storytelling in action,
  • Making an imaginative child friendly space
  • Confidence building techniques in play and performance.
  • Linking to children’s literature, traditional tales and multi cultural myths

REmida pd nov13 (1) REmida pd nov13 (2) REmida pd nov13 (3) REmida pd nov13 (4) REmida pd nov13 (15)With over 40 Perth early years educators , we discussed where play meets theatre techniques, in our human need to tell stories and explore environments. I introduced the key communication puppet Bobby from Imaginary Leaps and illustrated its role in providing non verbal points of interaction. A brief introduction to simple puppet making techniques to aid play and confidence, then we played with the movement of tissue, sculpting scrunchy puppets developing into simple storytelling scenarios.

REmida pd nov13 (20) REmida pd nov13 (24) REmida pd nov13 (27) REmida pd nov13 (35) REmida pd nov13 (41) We also looked at shadow play in a further installation Id created, cutting polystyrene animal shapes to project onto, playing with different colours, shapes and textures to make an animated artwork.

Feedback from participants included –


‘Thanks a lot for the great skills of making puppets and shadow theatre. Really enjoyed it.’ Jane UWA ELC

‘I am new to Early Learning and will leave with plenty of great ideas’ Stacey

‘Thank you for ‘do-able’ creative ideas.’ Helene

‘Fantastic creative ideas that enable children to think ‘outside the box’ Elle


‘Excellent PD, loved the ‘hands on’ & creative ideas’

Imaginary Leaps will be holding further professional development sessions in February 2014, please email for further information.

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Kampung Kids – Jakarta

Kampung kids (5)During my time in Jakarta in September, I was fortunate to go and volunteer my Imaginary Leaps theatre play sessions with Kampung Kids. Kampung kids runs programmes in Pejaten (South Jakarta), Bekasi and Bogor in West java to educate families on health and hygiene, and provides education a well as nutrition for needy children. Sponsoring over 1,112 students, they provide a healthy daily meal relying on many volunteers who contribute not only with money donations, but also with time spent teaching , supporting and nurturing pre school and junior Kampung kids.

kampungkidsAs soon as I arrived, I was warmly welcomed in a haven of calm, away from the busy city,by the staff , families and children – all eager to see what I had brought to play with. We had a small IT room to play in, so we pushed back the chairs and computers, and i got to know the 4-5 year old children, breaking the ice and making them feel comfortable with me, not by talking,I dont speak indonesian yet! but by callingon old mime and street theatre skills, to make them laugh. Then, we find Bobby, asleep and he makes a shy entrance, my most important puppet tool of communication. There were screams of joy and delight, gradually Bobby met each child and they communicated back to the puppet in their individual own way.

kampungkids (1)kampungkids (3)Bobby is a puppet where characteristic gestures and features are only gently suggested so the children’s own imaginations can imprint what they want to see. The puppet helps reinforce the child’s own identity, sharing joy and emotions in the moment. Often children respond in the primal 3 ways – to nurture, to love, or to fight. I model with the puppet treating it with respect, if a child punches or hits the puppet, I give the puppet a cuddle and then the child , Ive found through use of no oral language, after repeating these actions once or twice, the child will model back to the puppet. Puppets and people alike need positive, tender care. Bobby puppet changes its expression in the eyes of the child, depending on the child’s emotional needs, and can be any gender or culture. Together we all sing and play ‘Ring a Roses’, somehow the children pick this up very quickly and love the actions.

kampungkids (8)Bobby models playing with coloured sheets of Tissue paper – the tissue transforms to a butterfly, fish, bird, different animals – the children shout out the names in Indonesian. Then to original music from DNA’s early years shows, we dance and play with the movement of tissue in the air, blowing, juggling, scrunching, making bows in the hair or superhero capes. After this play has been exhausted, they scrunch and form the tissue into whatever they see, in this play they seem to want fish and once formed, these swim in our imaginary sea. The nursery rhyme is repeated, ‘With fishes in the ocean, fishes  in the sea’ illustrated with the puppet fish. A completely different game then began, using the swivel wheeled chairs as cars and getting stuck in traffic jams, totally reenacting the traffic situation in Jakarta!

Bobby said goodbye aftera great time playing and donated crayons, shdow puppet materials and as much craft activity supplies as I could carry over in my luggage!

Thank you to Julia and the staff & families at Kampung Kids -

Thank you so much for your time in running the puppet play with our children yesterday, I am sure they enjoyed it. We hope all the best with your career as I think it is great idea to play with.”

To make a donation to kampung kids please contact

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Terry Jones Fairy Tales entertaining family audiences in WA!

ThurtinkleDNA puppetry have just had sell out shows with Thurtinkle performing Terry Jones Tales for Fremantle Festival audiences. We had some really funny moments in the children’s participation, particularly from one boy who told us of the game ‘Dead Fish’ when the audience were asked for party game ideas to play. Apparently, after a complicated explanation only a bright 8 year could give, we just lie still for as long as possible on the floor!

DSC_0922 DSC_0945 DSC_0959Thurtinkle was also very privileged to tell stories at the University of Western Australia at a Family Day with the  ‘Little Paintings, Big Stories’ gossip songs of Western Arnhem Land exhibition. Also there, was Aboriginal Elder Noel Nannup telling his Dreamtime story ‘The Carers of Everything’ which tells of humanity’s necessary job of caring for the land and the animals. This story and Terry Jones story of ‘The Glass Cupboard’ are all about not over consuming but giving back to the earth. Having a yarn afterwards, we discussed how although we have been telling these stories about caring for the environment for years, there feels more urgency in the message to look after nature and the planet than ever before.

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DNA recieved wonderful feedback from the show -

‘Recently we ran a Family Focus Day to coincide with our current exhibition which focuses on story telling. The Thurtinkle Fairy Tale Show fit in perfectly with our program. Thurtinkle took us on a journey through his wonderful world and had the children (and the adults) engaged and enthralled. The puppeteers/hosts were professional in their presentation and performance and we would highly recommend them for future events particularly within an educational environment.’

Kelly Rowe, Assistant Curator, Berndt Museum, UWA

Next performance is at Beaufort Street Festival, Nov 16th on the Golden Throne Stage, in the Family Area at 3.45pm. See you there!


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Wayang World Puppet Carnival – Jakarta Sept 1-8th, 2013

jakarta wayang carnival

Well the dust has settled, and Im ready to write about the wonderful time had at ‘the most extravagant wayang-puppet carnival in the world!’ Over 40 companies played, with a big eclectic mix of traditional and contemporary work.  I was attending the festival  as production assistant for Sydney Puppet Company with Sue Wallace performing her beautiful childrens solo show ‘Nella’s Wings’. With no verbal language , the children’s audiences understood and enjoyed her every movement.

1301_14_SydPupTheatre_Nella_5D3_0068[2]It was hard work getting to shows, as gridlock traffic was the norm, and the main theatre was a long way to the South of Jakarta. A huge heritage and cultural park, I arrived there by taxi and motorbike to meet up with the Puppet Tribe! After lunch, the Welcome Ceremony and Parade began, with beautiful costumes and traditional dancers and acrobats, as well as the International puppet companies.

Opening ceremony (24)Opening ceremony (10) Opening ceremony (1)Opening ceremony (21)One of the most magical events of the festival was the opportunity to watch late night Wayang Kulit, at Monash with the best of Indonesia’s Dalangs. It was amazing to hear and see the full Gamelan orchestra, female singers in full dress and the full cast of Shadow puppet characters. I met & watched all the family: from 9 year old student Dalangs in training, to father to grandfather, passing down the alive and topical storytelling from each generation. The audience laughed and engaged in what must be the richest traditional puppetry still alive today.

Wayang carnival jakarta (6) Wayang carnival jakarta (8) Jakarta 052The Indonesian festival organisers did an amazing job pulling everything together, in very difficult circumstances at times. Nothing was a problem, and everything was done with a big smile to smooth things along. A special Gala night was held mid week, with traditional song and dance, and beautiful food. Hashim Djojohadikusumo, Chair of the Arsari  Djojohadikusumo Foundation made a moving speech concerning their charitable work against people trafficking, animal conservation and humanitarian aid relief.

Gala night (5) Wayang carnival jakarta (22)Organisers Yekti Suradji & secretary with myself and Heather Henson

Despite a few hiccups from losing my new phone in a Bluebird taxi and getting it back two days later(yes, they really are that reliable!), and getting stuck in a huge political demonstration, missing the days shows, I saw some great productions.

Wayang carnival jakarta (27)Standing out by far , was Paper Moon ‘s show ‘Mwa Thirika’ inspired by political turmoil  in 1965, the infamous “Year of Living Dangerously,” when thousands of Indonesians were jailed and murdered. Highly symbolic, great puppetry, powerful soundtrack and digital projections, a really moving and powerful production,and then a group of elderly ladies, survivors of that time were applauded after Ria Paper moon’s speech thanking the people who had given their stories of that time in research for the production.

paper moonFor more information on the making see -

Jakarta 080 Jakarta 079Ibex me wavingI was also fortunate to give a helping hand with Heather Henson’s Ibex Puppetry ‘Celebration of Flight’, and able to see behind the scenes and upclose outdoors, the amazing puppets and kites. Everyone making bird kites and flying them at the end of the show is magical audience engagement for all ages.

Wayang carnival jakarta (92) Wayang carnival jakarta (89) Wayang carnival jakarta (90) Wayang carnival jakarta (91)At the Wayang Museum, we were given a personal tour by Karen Smith, President of UNIMA’s Publication & Communication Commission and a learned student of Wayang Kulit. She also assists in UNESCO’s  efforts to document and conserve threatened puppetry and sacred performance.

Wayang carnival jakarta (64)Wayang carnival jakarta (82) Wayang carnival jakarta (81)

Wayang carnival jakarta (87)Of all the beautifully made and elaborately detailed puppets on display, the most interesting for me were the Wayang Mainman, practice puppets  woven with grass and also bamboo in the rural communities to teach children the stories of the Ramayana and Mahabarata. Relative to corn dollies and native american corn husk dolls, this tradition connects the land, the  food source, with the vital essence of storytelling.

At the Closing Ceremony and awards, Sydney Puppet Company recieved a special mention for their work, Uk ‘s Noisy Oyster won Best Street Performance and Heather Henson’s Ibex Puppetry’s Handmade Puppet Dreams Films won Best film.Wayang carnival jakarta (58)Opening ceremony (20)Wayang carnival jakarta (46)

See the Wayang world puppet carnival  home page above for the full awards list.

For lots more images of festival shows see Nik’s fab photos

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