Barking up the right tree

A PARTNERSHIP between Barking Gecko Theatre Company and the Insurance Commission of Western Australia has delivered an important message about the perils of dangerous driving to young people all over the State.

This innovative sponsorship arrangement also attracted the attention of the judges for this year’s State Arts Sponsorship Awards, winning the best new sponsor at the awards this week.

The Buzz, an interactive theatre work written by Michael Wicherek, was first performed to school students in the UK.

Insurance Commission of Western Australia managing director Vic Evans saw the play in London and contacted the writer with a view to putting it on in Perth.

The Insurance Commission of Western Australia is the sole provider of third party insurance for motor vehicles in WA.

Barking Gecko general manager Beverley Growden said, as one of Australia’s largest children’s theatre companies, Barking Gecko was a principal provider of touring experiences for schools in WA.

“Our target is 15 to 17 years, so we put ourselves forward as the right company to present the program on behalf of the insurance company,” Ms Growden said.

“We worked very quickly to make sure we marketed it to schools this year.

“We had a tremendous response, we got out to 14,000 young people.”

In the metropolitan area The Buzz toured for 10 weeks, with a further five weeks in regional schools in the South West and the Pilbra.

“In terms of the acting it’s a story about a guy and a girl, Gary and Sharon who are going out,” Ms Growden said

“It’s all about speed and taking risks.

“It really delivers a funny interactive theatre experience that delivers a message about dangerous driving.

“The set consists of two big chairs that move around.

“In part of the play the actors get the kids to push the two chairs and see how fast they can go.”

At the end of the performance there’s a question and answer session where students and the actors can talk about their driving and accident experiences.

“Before and after the show, evaluation forms were hand

ed out so many kids said it was a fantastic production,” Ms Growden said.

“The question that kept being asked was, how fast is too fast.”

Barking Gecko has just agreed to tour The Buzz in 2003 and there will be even more performances in regional areas in the new season.

Sponsorship from the Insurance Commission of Western Australia totals more than $100,000.

“It’s not often that you get a sponsor coming to you,” Ms Growden said.

“But we did obviously have to pursue it.”

For the Insurance Commission of Western Australia this partnership represents its first sponsorship of the arts in WA.

The Buzz is the result of the commission’s desire to develop innovative ways to deliver road safety messages to young people. The feedback from students about the production showed how powerful a creative medium can be in delivering a serious message. Nearly half the people killed on the State’s roads every year are aged between 17 and 24.

“We hope that by delivering this hard hitting play to schools the number and severity of car crashes involving young people will reduce,” Insurance Commission of Western Australia managing director Vic Evans said.

The commission’s public relations manager Michelle Finucane said a trial of the production with 40 schools played a big role in the decision to run a full season of the play in 2002.

“The issue was put across in a fun way and then it was more serious towards the end,” she said. “It was such a success that we are going to continue; a big part of it was the positive feedback we got from the play.”

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