Michael is a director, writer and puppeteer who joined Spare Parts Puppet Theatre through the company’s training program in 1992. As a performer, he toured extensively for the company for many years before his appointment as Associate Director in 2007. As a director, his productions have been presented nationally, including The Little Prince, The Night Zoo and Roald Dahl’s The Twits, and internationally as an adapting writer/animator of Shaun Tan’s The Arrival.
Michael’s work explores contemporary performance by re-contextualising puppets, objects and performers on an animated stage, and investigates themes of connection and identity. He enjoys sharing his love of puppetry with young and emerging artists through the company’s training programs and the puppetry unit Spare Parts delivers for the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA).
Trained at The Kansai Geijutsu–Za Performing Arts Academy in Japan, Noriko Nishimoto worked for 16 years as a performer, writer and director at leading professional puppet company Clarte Puppet Theatre in Osaka.
In 1981, she was invited by Spare Parts Puppet Theatre’s founding Artistic Director Peter L. Wilson as a guest artist for the company’s production of Faust for the Festival of Perth.
In 1982, she joined the company as master puppeteer and technique master, funded by the Japan–Australia Foundation. During this time she trained performers in the company and toured the eastern states, China, Korea, Japan, Canada and USA – and conducted master classes in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Hobart and Brisbane.
In 1987, Noriko became Associate Artistic Director of Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, writing, adapting, devising, designing and directing – as well as collaborative work with other companies including Two Dance Plus, Chrissie Parrot Dance Theatre, Black Swan Theatre Company in Perth, Terrapin Puppet Theatre in Hobart, Polyglot Puppet Theatre in Melbourne, and Drak Theatre in the Czech Republic.
In 1995 Noriko took a six month break from Spare Parts to work on an individual development project Miss Tanaka funded by the Australia Council for the Arts. During this period she also worked as a freelance artist with Skylark Theatre in Canberra, Handspan Theatre and Polyglot Puppet Theatre in Melbourne.
In 1997 Noriko was appointed Artistic Director of Spare Parts. She set up the Company Associate Program to encourage individual artists and the School of Puppetry to allow company associates the opportunity to share their skills and knowledge in a recognized form. She developed national and international tours for Spare Parts Puppet Theatre’s productions, explored cross art form collaborations, participated in creative partnerships and generally consolidated the company’s artistic reputation.
As Artistic Director, Noriko’s focus was to produce new productions to reﬂect Australian culture and she directed and produced a series of highly acclaimed productions that included: The Bunyip of Berkeley’s Creek, the smash hit The Bugalugs Bum Thief, Cat Balloon, The Deep, Eat The Moon and The Midnight Gang in collaboration with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra.
In July 2001, after 20 very successful years with the company, Noriko announced her resignation as Artistic Director to work as a freelance theatre director. She worked as puppetry creator for Mamu with Black Swan State Theatre Company, directed The Emperor’s Nightingale and conducted master classes with Capital E’s National Theatre for Children in New Zealand and was a creative consultant on many individual artists projects.
Major awards recognising Noriko’s work include: Union Internationale de la Marionnette/Australia (2008), Union Internationale de la Marionnette Women’s Commission Award/ World (2012), Spare Parts Puppet Theatre – Honorary Life Member Award (2014) and Western Australian State Living Treasures Award (2015).
Sadly Noriko passed away in May 2016 leaving behind a legion of fans and colleagues who were inspired by her work. We were honoured to have worked with such a talent and aim to continue to inspire others as much as she did through puppetry.
Philip Mitchell is an award-winning director and puppeteer with nearly three decades experience working in puppetry and visual theatre in Australia. He has been Artistic Director of Spare Parts Puppet Theatre for 20 years.
As an Artistic Director Philip’s passion is to create and commission contemporary puppetry works that explore the boundaries of the artform. Large scale works, interactive and experiential puppetry and the tension between the performer and the puppet drives his exploration in puppetry.
Philip is committed to nurturing new artistic leaders in puppetry through Australia’s only tertiary education unit at WAAPA and training programs like FirstHand.