Brisbane-born performer Jess Golle is one of the hands behind Bluey – for real life!
The dancer, actor and puppeteer has been touring with Bluey’s Big Play around Australia and the US since 2021.
The heeler family is returning home to Brisbane for a summer season of the hit stage show at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, and Golle couldn’t be happier.
“There’s something special about coming to your hometown and being able to show your family and friends what you do,” she told AAP.
For anyone unfamiliar with the global heeler phenomenon, Bluey is a six-year-old blue heeler whose everyday adventures have captured the hearts of children, and their parents too.
After its launch in 2018, the cartoon now screens in more than 60 countries.
The theatrical adaptation premiered in Brisbane in 2020, featuring an original story by Bluey creator Joe Brumm and music by the show’s composer Joff Bush.
Golle spent about six months on the US tour, including a premiere at New York’s Madison Square Garden, and loved exploring the southern states, where audiences were impressed by her accent.
“Some of the guests came up to me and were like, ‘Wow, your Australian accent is so good, how long have you been practising it for?'”
With so much popular culture imported from the US, the show has been a chance to export a taste of Queensland, Golle said, with American audiences picking up Australian terms such as dunny, bin, and togs.
Returning to Brisbane is also special because the city provides many of the locations in the cartoon itself: even QPAC gets a look in, in the Ice Cream episode of series two.
Playing Bluey has been an absolute honour, said Golle, and skipping onstage in front of a cheering crowd has been a feeling unmatched by anything else in her career.
Puppeteering was well outside the comfort zone for the children’s entertainer, and steering the beloved character came with a lot of pressure at first.
Several people work on the Bluey puppet at any moment, with one operating her eyes, mouth and eyelids, and another using rods to move her arms and feet.
It’s not exactly acting, says Golle, but she has learnt to direct her energy and breathing towards Bluey to bring the character to life.
“We also need to get our brains around which hand moves the eyes and which hand moves the mouth,” she said.
Golle promises the stage show is full of dancing and games of keepy uppy – but warns mums and dads might be shedding a tear by the finale.
Just like an episode of the cartoon.
Bluey’s Big Play runs at QPAC’s Playhouse from December 30 to January 20.