ARGUS – magic in miniature



Brisbane Powerhouse

Dead Puppet Society

Visy Theatre

26 – 30 June 2013


Reviewed by Poppy Eponine & Xanthe Coward


“Argus is like making something from nothing. You can give a three-year-old an iPad and they’ll have fun with it but you can take it away and give them a cardboard box and they’ll still have fun. Argus is the cardboard box.”

Troy Armstrong Powerkids Festival Producer


This week I wrote about Taipei’s Museum of Miniatures, and unpacked a heap of Poppy’s tiny precious toys (yes, we moved house during the final weekend of the Noosa Long Weekend! Stupido!), and could not for the life of me remember where I’d packed the Swarovski. I’m not a real collector; I just love little glass creatures (I know, call me Blue Roses. I just finished those ed notes for the teachers too! It was a big week!), so I’ve been thinking lately about the small stuff. The small stuff makes us stop and think and feel for a moment. The small stuff is important. Today Poppy and I enjoyed a small gift- we got up early, made pancakes for breakfast and went to see a beautiful little show called ARGUS, which is destined for a much bigger – global – audience.


In terms of its theatricality, ARGUS is the real thing; it’s old-school “analogue” magic in miniature, created from scratch by David Morton and the innovative team at Dead Puppet Society. Best known for The Harbinger, these guys have PIMPED THEIR HANDS, trumping Jim Henson’s Helping Hands (and you KNOW how much I love Labyrinth!), creating delightful characters and a story to win hearts all over the world.




Beneath a sky of party light stars a great wheel sits, and the musicians take their places on either side. With their original score, Topology (coincidentally, about to take off on a “Ten Hands” tour to launch their album of the same name) provides the perfect soundscape, along with the performers’ vocal effects (no discernible words), to the journey taken by a couple of characters within a plot that’s vaguely reminiscent of Wall-E, and just as sweet. After a brief, warp-speed history of the evolution of life on Earth, we meet Argus, who finds a friend, offers her a teeny-tiny pinwheel flower, and loses her just as suddenly to the rubbish truck, after a maniacal character sporting sunnies and wielding a spade, crashes their yard party and disposes of them all. Argus manages to escape this dismal fate and becomes our hero, searching everywhere for his new friend and their party guests, finding them eventually in the rubbish dump. It’s a case of make the best of what you have, and the implication is that they clean up the place in which they’ve found themselves and start again from scratch. As long as they’re together, everything is alright. ROCK ON!


An enormous wheel, which forms the basis of the set, simply and cleverly provides multiple settings, and as a frame, enables us to focus on the action within it. In less than two minutes (it takes most people at least six to ten minutes to tune into Shakespeare), our eyes settle on the hands of the performers, and we find ourselves immersed in the magical miniature world of ARGUS.


ARGUS was so sweet and sad. It was a big adventure for a little guy.



It had a happy ending – I love happy endings – but it got freaky (when he was on the wire) and at some points it was sad, because he lost his friend. The hand monsters kissed each other and their eyes were sparkling because when you put electric to electric you might be able to form a fire. And they did, they created fire like in The Croods, and it gave him the same fright! He hurt his melting metal fingers!


They made the show with mystical magic hands and bits of robots. Their eyes were lights and they worked together to get all the pieces together, you know, their hands, to make the magical, mystical creatures. He looked like a bulldozer.



A shooting star came through the sky, like a light bulb but I know it was supposed to be a magical egg from the sky. When the egg hatched a few minutes later there was another egg coming from the sky and he made friends with that egg. Then a mean person came along and put his friends in a bin. He was left all alone and he chased the rubbish truck all over the Earth and sky, and into space and all the way back to find his friends. Finally he jumped in a rubbish bin and a few seconds later the rubbish truck came to collect the rubbish! With him IN IT! He was tipped out with the rubbish into the dump, and he was crying. And then he stopped crying and started breathing because he heard a little friend – it was his friend – and they set up their own little dump party. They were happy where they were, even though it wasn’t where they started.


They were happy as long as they were together.



It was funny when they kissed! The music was freaky and sometimes it was very beautiful. It suited wherever they went. It didn’t matter that there were no words; it was easy to know what was happening because you knew how the monsters were feeling from their bright eyes and the music. It was good to see the musos. We don’t always get to see the musos. Daddy is talking about hiding the musos for his show in the dressing rooms and putting the sound through the speakers. He already did that once before so he says it’s easy and it’s just because there’s no space for them on stage with all those dancers so they have to be hidden. But they should come out for their curtain call. DEFINITELY.


Mummy talked to Nic about what the plans are for this show and I think it should go to theatres everywhere too because kids everywhere would LOVE IT!





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