An excellent addition to their oeuvre, New Owner is a sweet and heartfelt play from The Last Great Hunt, presented at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts as part of this week’s AWESOME Festival for kids.

Conceived and performed by Arielle Gray and Tim Watts, this was simpler and more innocent than the collective’s previous works- as one would expect considering the intended audience. The duo’s masterful puppetry was rewarded as the children in the audience openly expressed their wonderment.

When Bart, a dozy, Maltese Terrier puppy animated by Watts, is adopted and rescued from a shelter by an aging widow, he and Mabel find a fresh lease on life. This fluffy white doggo imbues her with a new sense of purpose, and together they form a bond that is shattered when they are separated during a storm.

Bart soon makes a streetwise buddy called Bernie – a St. Bernard brought to life by Gray- who teaches him how to survive in the city (which mainly involves ransacking sausage carts). When Bernie is snatched by a sinister dogcatcher, Bart must stop being a ‘scaredy-cat’ and find the courage to rescue his friend from a being a victim of the city’s dog-fighting pits.

hero-image-for-collatoralA wordless production, this deeply moving tale of loss and new hope is loaded with magical moments. Watts and Gray are superb observers, and whether the dogs are snuffling for food or getting ready for bed, their movements are uncannily true-to-life.

Developed while the co-creators undertook a residency at the Kinosaki International Arts Centre in Japan, this piece’s strength and ingenuity is that it is performed behind a screen upon which detailed animations are projected to create the world within which the work is set. With puppet design and construction by Chloe Flockart, and set and props designed and built by Anthony Watts, this adorable, comic offering is perfect entertainment for kids these school holidays.

Words by Samuel J. Cox

New Owner runs at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts from 1 -16 October. Tickets available here. The AWESOME Festival runs 1 -10 October in the Perth Cultural Centre. More information available here.