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The Spare Parts Puppet Theater in Fremantle is using a grant to fund a 3D printer

The Spare Parts Puppet Theater in Fremantle is using a grant to fund a 3D printer

A modern style of puppetry is emerging for audiences, with a Perth company now able to produce its puppets via a 3D printer.

Spare Parts Puppet Theater recently received a Lotterywest grant to fund the printer and further the development of its “digital puppetry program”.

Artistic director Philip Mitchell said while the production team would not abandon traditionally made puppets, the technology would open up a realm of possibilities.

“It allows us to create amazing new technological innovations for dolls,” he said.

Camera iconSpare Parts Puppet Theater artistic director Philip Mitchell said the 3D printer will bring amazing new innovations to puppets. Credit: Supplied/The West

“For example, a neck joint can have multiple directions because we can now embed a socket in their head, which wasn’t possible before because it was physically impossible.

“Or it would take hours and hours, or it would break if tampered with.”

In addition to the printed puppets, the theater company’s digital program will combine puppetry with augmented reality in a yet-to-be-released app.

The app, which is currently in testing, allows a person to make their own doll, then scan the figure with its 3D dimensions into the app and manipulate it in real time.

Mr Mitchell hopes the advances will open up opportunities for new audiences.

“Especially in this difficult age group of 12 to 18, we tend to lose our audience,” he said.

“I think there will be great appeal in bridging the puppetry experience from youth to teenage years and using it as a form of creative expression.”

It’s a welcome boost for the theater company, whose Pioneer Park home was deemed no longer fit for purpose in 2022 and was relocated for its 2023 performances.

Spare parts puppet theaterCamera icon(LR) Spare Parts Puppet Theater Managing Director Katie Henebery, Fremantle MLA Simone McGurk and Spare Parts Puppet Theater Chairman David Mofflin. Photo credit: James Mooney

While a business case is underway for state government funding to renovate the aging venue, the group has since moved its shows to the Claremont Showground.

“It was quite a challenge,” Mr Mitchell said.

“As you can imagine, it is of course a challenge when a company that has existed somewhere for 40 years suddenly loses its location.”

But Mr Mitchell said the move had not affected the quality of shows and the company remained committed to its Perth audiences in both the southern and western suburbs.

“We are still very committed to our Fremantle audience and creating work here in Fremantle and Claremont,” he said.

“So it’s actually an opportunity for tremendous growth for us.

“Although it is a big challenge internally, we feel we are providing our community with the best puppetry in Australia.”