The Jigsaw Theatre team, from left, Barb Barnett, Raoul Craemer and Craig Higgs, prepare for their adventures down the plughole in Michael Francis Willoughby in Elohgulp. Photo: Chuckle Photography
Michael Francis Willoughby In Elohgulp
Written, Directed By Chris Thompson
Puppet Direction By Catherine Roach
Music By John Shortis, Ian Blake
Jigsaw Theatre Company
The Courtyard Studio, Canberra Theatre Centre, September 28-october 12
Suitable For Children Aged Five To 12. Tickets $15-$25
Bookings 6275 2700 Or Canberratheatrecentre.com.au
Have you ever wondered what happens to all the stuff that goes down the plugholes in kitchens and bathrooms? Michael Francis Willoughby (played by Craig Wiggs) finds out when he visits Elohgulp, the world at the bottom of all the drains.
But will it be a better place than his home, where the Bickermouth has stolen the voices of his mother and father and turned them into arguments? When Michael comes into the room, his parents pretend everything is all right, but when he leaves he hears the Bickermouth. And then he gets sucked into the world of Elohgulp, which has its own problems.
Raoul Craemer and Barb Barnett in Michael Francis Willoughby in Elohgulp. Photo: Chuckle Photography
Writer-director Chris Thompson says Michael Francis Willoughby in Elohgulp, the first production he has directed as artistic director of Jigsaw Theatre Company, is ''a show about overcoming your fears. It's about personal courage and it has a strong environmental theme''. Blending actors and puppets (designed by David Hope), the play creates a world populated by Drits (charged with collecting and gathering the things that fall through drains) and Assupods (who take and deal with what the Drits have gathered), as well as a scary creature called the Gludse.
''It's made up of the stuff they don't know what to do with that's toxic,'' Thompson says. And it's come to life and is on the loose in Elohgulp.
''Michael comes to realise he's responsible for creating the Gludse. He comes to understand his world has created the problem in their world and that he should take some responsibility and find out what it all means by confronting the Gludse.''
And Michael might face a not-uncommon dilemma: what do you do when a problem is insoluble?
''All he can do is pledge that even though he can't fix the problem, he might be able to stop it from getting worse.''
At first, Thompson says, he had the idea that Michael would simply defeat the Gludse - ''that's how we tell these stories'' - but during the course of a year or so of development with artists, designers and performers he thought, ''Is this really what we want to say?''
The answer was no, and they decided to tell a story that was ''more truthful - this isn't a problem with an easy solution. Environmental [problems] you can't just finish, you have to accept you created them and be determined not to make them worse.''
But while the underlying message is a serious one, Thompson and his collaborators want to make the show entertaining and theatrical. It's being presented as part of the Collected Works: Australia 2013 Centenary of Canberra season.