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Collaboration creates new theatre work for young people

World premiere performance in Cairns connects with new audiences


Cairns Regional Council/Tanks Arts Centre hosted the world premiere performance of puppetry and visual theatre production Beyond the Waves, presented in May 2021 by Dead Puppet Society and ARC Disability, originally commissioned by Cairns Regional Council as part of the 2021 Cairns Children’s Festival.

Beyond the Waves was intended to be presented at the 2020 Cairns Children’s Festival. Although the festival was subsequently cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions, the production provided outcome-focused skills development for people with disability, as well as the creation of a new work that can be remounted for presentation in the future. 

Beyond the Waves, written by the young people of ARC under the mentorship of playwright, Director and creative facilitator Karen Jackson, tells the story of best friends Finn and Sheba who are swept up from a beach in Far North Queensland and into a world of unexpected magic. 

The creative development was guided by the puppetry design and expertise of Dead Puppet Society, and supported by Cairns Regional Council's production, delivery and marketing team. 

The joint initiative fortified Council’s long-term relationships with both ARC, well known for their exceptional creative work embracing visual and performing arts in the Cairns region, and the Brisbane-based Dead Puppet Society who have been bringing their unique and interactive works to the region for many years.


When and where

16 May 2021 – performances at Tanks Arts Centre in Cairns.


Key stats

  • 31 Queensland artists and arts workers
  • 5 performances
  • 1 location - Cairns
  • 950 attendees - 300 attendee per official show (ie each show was sold out) with 50 pax in attendance at preview and open dress


Arts Queensland investment 

$41,188 through the Queensland Arts Showcase Program (QASP) which supports the delivery of vibrant and accessible arts and cultural experiences for Queensland. 

Dead Puppet Society receives $960 000 through Arts Queensland’s Organisations Fund 2022 – 2025.




Share stories

  • Developed an original arts and cultural experience 

Professional development

  • The development process offered significant networking and career pathways 
  • Developed through a process of process of collaboration, skills development and networking opportunities

Strengthen communities

  • Participants collaborated in a positive creative experience 
  • engaged an under-represented group of creatives, (people with disability). 
  • activated existing cultural infrastructure in a unique way. 
  • Provided an original and exciting outcome for regional audiences
  • Connected with new audiences


Learnings and reflections

  • Team building: communication between Festival Producer, Dead Puppet Society and ARC Team was robust and clear. There was flexibility around rescheduling and the inevitable changes that occur when new work is being mounted, especially in the midst of a pandemic.
  • Collaboration: There was a willingness from all parties, to listen and collaborate and work towards the final product. The whole team worked with a beautiful synergy and mutual respect. 
  • Good communication: There were continuous channels of communication happening, allowing for flexibility and flow in booking rehearsal times and spaces


Feedback and comments

From the audience:

"I loved the story. It was so Heartfelt and Beautiful" - facebook

"My 2 year old loved the sting ray.. I loved it ALL!" - facebook

What a gorgeous production!!! Well done to all the actors, set creators, production team and all the support workers. The enthusiasm and pure joy was magical

The Most wonderful production I have seen in a very long time.  - Really beautiful story delivered by amazing team of creatives


From the participants:

Incredible communication / professionalism - creative support from producer to production team … great promotion. –

I like the show, I want to be an actor. – 

I learned to work hard and control my nerves. 

A special thanks to Arts Queensland for the funding opportunity for this production.



Tips for others

Always be open to the Creative Development/Collaborative process and outcomes.


What next?

We are in the planning stages of adapting the work for touring the surrounding region. 

By cultivating and building the capacity of our local talent we hope to create legacy outcomes as well as strengthen our reputation as a vibrant arts and cultural community.

Further planning and development for 2022 in light of Council's two year delivery of Disability and the Arts Strategy. Dead Puppets Society and Council relationship has deepened with further presentations and developments 


Find out more

Behind the Scenes – short video/vimeo link

Beyond The Waves "Behind the Scenes" from Cultural Services Cairns on Vimeo.