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Sue Harris: A night at the Opera

Sue Harris is one of Adelaide’s foremost puppeteers. Since 1978, she has been delighting children and adults alike with her puppets, stories and teachings.

For ten years, she was a core performer at the Festival Centre’s Something on Saturday, she has toured with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, worked in a variety of television productions (who remembers Mulligrubs?) and in schools, prisons, street theatre and live theatre.

BB and Orrible Ogre

Baby Blue and ‘Orrible Ogre (Snap! Snap!)

Her current production is, however, none of those things. It’s an art exhibition.

Sue once said that she thought she was perhaps a ‘frustrated visual artist’ and that the idea of an exhibition held a lot of appeal.

Can you imagine a less ‘visual’ form of art than puppetry?


Prototype for vampire bat (Nosferatu: the undead)

With that in mind, we set about creating an exhibition to express just a little of Sue’s magnificent career as a puppeteer.

For five seasons, she performed with 60 Minute Opera in collaboration with the State Opera of South Australia, to introduce school children to the world of opera.

Larger than life, Hill Marliner (Daughter of the Sea)

Using, in most cases, productions being presented at the time by the State Opera, 60 Minute Opera acquainted many children from a variety of backgrounds with the delights of opera.

Sue’s puppets, ‘real’ opera singers and hands-on experience had the children thoroughly involved in the production of their own operatic masterpiece.

Rainbow Mouse

Rainbow Mouse (Snap! Snap!)

For the children, the experience culminated in attendance at the final dress rehearsal for the State Opera production. And, for many, it was a first time visit to the Festival Theatre, or even a theatrical performance of any kind.

It is these puppets that form the basis of A night at the Opera, Sue’s exhibition at Mrs Harris’ Shop.

The exhibition celebrates her work with 60 Minute Opera, the State Opera, school children of South Australia and of course, her much loved puppets – from the larger than life-sized to the teeny-tiny.


Rosina and Teeny Tiny Rosina (The Barber of Seville)

It features characters including Rosina from The Barber of Seville, Cio Cio san and Suzuki from Madame Butterfly, the witch from Gretel and Hansel, Hill Marliner, Lord of the Ocean from Daughter of the Sea, a vampire bat from Nosferatu: the undead (from Bram Stoker’s Dracula) and several monsters from Snap! Snap! The latter was adapted from the children’s book Snap! Snap! There’s a monster under my bed.

Tiny Terror

Tiny Terror (Snap! Snap!)

Sue is also a writer, having created many of the productions in which her puppets perform and teach, books about puppetry and a variety of educational resources.

Closest to her heart though, is A special place: Caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s – the journey, written to help others making the same journey with an ageing and ailing parent, just as Sue did. From A special place came Perish the Thought, a play written and co-produced by Sue.


Genevieve, the child character from Perish the Thought, takes pride of place in the exhibition.

A night at the Opera, in some small way, displays just some of the talents of the multi-talented Sue Harris: writer, storyteller, playwright and puppeteer.

Pay us a visit during any weekend in September to meet the characters, be entertained and to hear some of the tales attached!

And, if you’d like to spend a little more time with the artist and delve into the ‘life and times’ of this special puppeteer, then join us at 2pm on Saturday 26 September for an artist’s talk, in the form of a Q&A session.  Come along with some questions and be prepared to be entertained!


Cooked witch

Cooked witch (Gretel and Hansel)

And, just for the record, Sue is NOT related to the Mrs Harris of Mrs Harris’ Shop!

Please note: the works in this exhibition are not for sale

Thanks to gallery neighbor, Andreas, for some of these photographs.

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