HomePeopleA puppeteer’s journey

A puppeteer’s journey

Pulling strings around the world

From performing in front of 3000 people in Myanmar to helping to bring hit musicals to Uluru, Bob Peet’s theatre career has taken him all over the world.
He now lives in Mt Barker and supports the Stirling Players through set design, which he has done for shows such as the Complete Works of William Shakespeare.
But his love affair with theatre and performance originally began touring internationally as a puppeteer.
Growing up in the Sydney suburbs of Campsie and Padstow, Bob was first introduced to theatre when he went to watch his father, a drummer and percussionist, perform during productions.
“He was in great demand because he was one of the few at that time who could read percussion music and he had his own gear,” Bob says.
“I must have been about five or six, and he would take me with him … I used to sit in the orchestra pit at rehearsal and look up and think, ‘I want to be part of that’.”
At 19 he embarked on a journey that took him around Australia and then overseas after he answered an ad in the Sydney Morning Herald by a nameless company offering puppeteer training.
The tour was for The Tintookies, a comedy drama by Australian puppeteer Peter Scriven about little people living in sandhills, which proved very popular with audiences around the country.
Tasked with moving the marionettes or string puppets used in the production while standing on a 2.5 metre bridge behind the stage, Bob controlled them in sync with recorded voice lines.
“It was a big company, there were around six puppeteers and over 100 puppets and we toured extensively, going to NSW, Queensland and a bit of Victoria over six months, which was tremendous,” he says.


Not long after the Australian tour had concluded, Bob was back on the road, this time helping to take the show overseas to places such as India, Cambodia, Japan, the Philippines, Bangkok and Myanmar.
Bob recalls “skimming the treetops” as the crew flew in to Mandalay, Myanmar’s second biggest city, on a Douglas DC-3 airliner.
“When we got there, there was no theatre – we performed in the open air,” he says.
“They had set up a pavilion for the stage and it was on oil drums and planks … there was this great big hillside and we played to around 3000 people which was amazing.
“That was probably the biggest crowd of the whole tour.”
After that experience, Bob returned to Australia where he shifted into venue management, helping to bring six performing arts centres to regional cities.
But when opportunity came knocking for another Australian tour – this time working with English composer Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Really Useful Group – he was quick to accept.
He traded puppeteering for running reception as the front of house manager for the tour, which involved transporting a 2000-seat circus tent from venue to venue while performing classic productions such as Cats, Grease, Shout! and the Legend of the Wild One.
While the action took place inside the main tent, Bob’s place was in an adjacent stall which was set up as a theatre foyer and doubled as a licensed bar.

We had a gala opening at Uluru and people flew in from all over the world…


“I managed the foyer and had to arrange for liqour licences in every town, which were quite often covered by a State or Territory licence, but it changed every time,” he says.
“Sometimes particular councils could be very difficult, they demanded all sorts of things to suit them … to make sure (we got what we needed) I would ring up in advance and say that I needed 100 bottles of water, 60 of this or 60 of that.”
The shows were a success, selling out virtually every night, including a performance of Cats at Uluru.
“We had a gala opening at Uluru and people flew in from all over the world and there we were with our big top at Ayers Rock, which was a fantastic experience,” Bob says.
“We had some circus elements in (the show) as well – they added some trapeze and some tumbling (acrobatics).
“It lent itself to that being a Cats production, and (the cast) were fantastic dancers.”
Following the tour, Bob became involved with the Big Orange and Miranda Musical Theatre companies, before retiring and moving to Mt Barker with his partner three years ago.
Now Bob is focused on supporting the Stirling Players, as he continues his quest to keep regional theatre alive.
“I’ve always been involved with community theatre as well as working professionally … my dad and I had a business for a while and we built stage sets in those days for older shows like Oklahoma and so on,” he says.
“That stayed with me, so wherever I went to set up a new theatre, I always got involved with the local theatre community.”

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