Peter Scriven MBE 1930-1998

Peter Scriven

Peter Scriven

Jeremy Peter Scriven was born to wealthy parents in Melbourne on 28 September 1930.

Peter was educated at Geelong Grammar. Intrigued with puppetry, at the age of 14 he built his own glove puppet show.

Peter Scriven Puppets debuted in Melbourne on 2 June 1953 and toured Victoria with six 900- millimetre marionettes, a manager and one assistant.

 

Pulling strings

‘Scriven’s contribution to puppetry is an important part of Australia’s performing arts history,’
said Jenny Gould, who toured through Asia with him. ‘He developed puppetry as an art form in this country where there had been none. It was original, creative and visionary in its scale. He sought funding from the corporate sector, a new concept we now take for granted; he was an entrepreneur. He had a genius for attracting talented and hardworking creative people – writers, musicians, actors, technicians and craftsmen – to implement his ideas.’

Jeremy Peter Scriven was born to wealthy parents in Melbourne on 28 September 1930. His father, Victor, was a British air force pilot and his mother was the daughter of the chairman of the National Bank. Peter was aged two when the family moved to Britain. His father died in 1933 and Peter and his elder brother were educated by private tutors. When war broke out, Mrs Scriven brought the boys back to Australia. Peter was educated at Geelong Grammar. Intrigued with puppetry, at the age of 14 he built his own glove puppet show. He rejected tertiary education, preferring to study with W.D. Nicol, the brilliant Scottish-born puppeteer. Instrumental in founding the Puppet Guild of Australia, Nicol presented puppet shows professionally at his Littlest Theatre in a Melbourne city basement.

When he was 17, Scriven worked as a radio announcer at 3HA in Hamilton, Western Victoria. In 1948 he toured his marionette act through country New South Wales and Queensland in a travelling variety show headed by the Great Levante, the internationally known Australian illusionist. Realising that adults appreciated his work as much as children did, Scriven set off for Europe for further experience and study. He visited more than 50 Continental marionette theatres and toured England with the noted puppeteer Waldo Lanchester. He also appeared on BBC television.

Scriven returned to Australia in 1951. His mother died the following year and he inherited £100,000 from his grandfather’s estate. This allowed him to adopt an extravagant lifestyle, but it also enabled him to establish his own company. Peter Scriven Puppets debuted in Melbourne on 2 June 1953 and toured Victoria with six 900- millimetre marionettes, a manager and one assistant. In a three-year partnership with the NSW Division of the Arts Council of Australia, Scriven took his children’s shows throughout New South Wales. A 1953 holiday matinee season at the Theatre Royal in Sydney was followed by a record-breaking 76-day provincial tour – 95 performances attended by more than 53,000 youngsters. There were similar seasons in 1954 and 1955. Scriven also established a music publishing business.

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Biographical references

Richard Bradshaw: ‘The Marionette Theatre of Australia’, ‘Puppetry’, ‘Peter Scriven’ and ‘The Tintookies’, in Companion to Theatre in Australia, Currency Press, 1995
Jenny Gould: ‘Tintookies’ creator set puppet style’, in The Australian, 21 October 1998
Norman Hetherington: Puppets of Australia, Australian Council for the Arts, 1974
Peter Scriven: The Tintookies and Little Fella Bindi, Lansdowne Press, 1966
Maeve Vella and Helen Rickards: Theatre of the Impossible – Puppet Theatre in Australia, Craftsman House, 1989
Obituary, Sydney Morning Herald, 19 October 1998