From 1981 to the late nineties, I was a professional puppeteer working under the names Janet Dalgliesh or Janet Ashelford. Some of the highlights are listed below:
1983 – The Maestro’s Company (Independent Productions) made for SBS Television. This six-part series featured puppet characters living in an abandoned theatre, where they rehearsed and performed opera productions. Two human children, Tina (Justine Clarke) and Johnny (Adam Willits) discover the characters and help them as they lurch from disaster to disaster. I played Maria, the ingenue soprano with the heart of gold. This production was unusual as the speaking (dialogue) voices were provided by the puppeteers, but all the singing was provided by Decca recordings under licence. Consequently I had the strange experience of learning how to lip-sync Joan Sutherland and Renata Tebaldi.
1984-1987 inclusive – The New Adventures of Blinky Bill (ABC-TV, Sydney). This innovative half-hour kids’ TV series featured puppet animal characters interacting with human actors, and was shot almost entirely on location in the backlot at the ABC’s old Frenchs Forest studios, complete with ticks and other bush wildlife. Set in fictitious Bollygum Park, the show usually had a vaguely environmental theme. I provided voice and puppetry for Angelina Wallaby, Mrs Magpie and Kerry Koala, and also wrote several episodes (an early claim to writing credibility, as one of our other writers was the excellent Morris Gleitzman).
1992 – Lift Off (Australian Children’s Television Foundation) Series 1. I created the character of Doris the Pig in the successful Wakadoo Cafe episodes featured in this early childhood series; and also Tweesak and Grumblesak from the main series.
1995 – Babe (Kennedy Miller). I was one of five Australian puppeteers who worked in the special effects creature team alongside Henson puppeteers Mak Wilson, Dave Greenaway and Allan Trautman. My specialty was sheep’s ears. Next time you see the movie, check out any sheep close-ups and it’ll be me operating the ears (unless it’s a real sheep of course – ha ha). I actually based the ears on how dogs express emotion, since sheep don’t use their ears for anything more than flicking away flies. Sssh, don’t tell Chris Noonan…