by Eleanor Boydell
If you stumbled across an abandoned sports wheelchair, what would you do? For Daniele Poidomani, Artistic Director of Seddon-based installation and street theatre company Memetica, finding a wheelchair inspired his latest project Street Skeeters.
Skeeters are swift, urban creatures. Playful rascals, they dwell in Melbourne’s streetscape, moving amidst commuters and tourists, imagining a world where wheels reign supreme. “Character ideas come from anywhere,” says Poidomani. “Once I decided to work with a wheelchair, I thought about alleyway creatures – pigeons, rats, possums – then fantastical hybrid beings emerged.” There’s something of the rodent in the prototype Skeeter, but it’s truly an imagined creature.
Poidomani is an experienced maker, performer and creative facilitator. His main practice is building giant animated characters who tell stories through roving and street theatre. Structuring characters around a wheelchair is an opportunity for expanded accessibility. Memetica works with professional and volunteer performers to operate characters; the puppetry requires physical fitness, but with Skeeters no longer requires standing or walking. “I had to spend time in the chair, think about how it moved, how a person could get in and out once I’d added the Skeeter. Working with a wheelchair user was critical.”
Poidomani is joined by Matt Lewis, wheelchair rugby player and member of the gold winning Australian team at the Rio 2016 Paralympics. Initially unsure what to expect from this project, Lewis commented, “it’s like watching Geppetto build Pinoccio – Daniele is a master craftsman in his workshop.” Lewis brings expertise in operating sports wheelchairs, and confirms Skeeters construction caters for the chair. “It’s fascinating how the characters are engineered to move, and adjusted to suit any user.”
Street Skeeters are seeking performers for roving shows in November and December. Anyone may express interest. Participants will undertake a training workshop and will then be ready for this unique performance experience. Lewis advises it takes some strength, but bringing a Skeeter to life is mainly a performance skill.
Street Skeeters are supported by City of Melbourne, Disability Sports and Recreation, Snuff Puppets and Women’s Circus. To get involved or book the Skeeters for roving, contact Mari Savarese – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find out more about Memetica at memetica.com.au