Captives

Collage with a hand holding a baby platypus and drawings of platypus
Ceridwen was inspired to write the script for 'Captives' after a session at the Australian Museum library, where we were shown glass plate photographs and a bizarre film from the Harry Burrell collection. The film shows bare-chested naturalist Burrell digging into creek beds in search of platypus burrows. His intention is to better understand these remarkable semi-aquatic, egg-laying mammals by studying live creatures, rather than dissected specimens. Throughout his life Burrell was a fierce advocate for platypus conservation, while hacking into burrows and extracting puggles from nests.
History renders him a complicated character.
Burrell's background in vaudeville lingers in his flare for drama; the film also shows him petting a live platypus in his custom-built 'platypusary', his head and hands visible through a glass dome and forearm-holes in a deeply weird vignette that needs to be seen to be believed.
Rather than editing a short film from archival footage and stills, Zoë suggested developing a more 'hands-on' presentation: a paper theatre performance of the script. Hacking into Burrell's archive mimics his hacking into the river bank. Revealing her hands in the frame acts as a reminder that all archives are constructed, all stories assembled from fragments of the whole.
The first iteration was performed at the Read to Me (live graphic storytelling) event This Must Be The Place at Darling Square Library (Sydney) on 13 August 2023. The recording below was created after, with support from Gabe Clark and Jason Benedek.
Paper theatre narrative told from the perspective of a platypus.
Captives won the inaugral Shooshfest Silent Short Film Festival in May 2024. Film industry judges Liz Doran, Mark Joffe and Alexei Toliopoulos were unanimous in their decision, commending the powerful writing and clever use of silent cinema tropes to tell an unexpected and complicated story.
Title slide in the style of a silent film caption reads 'Captives' written by Ceridwen Dovey illustrated by Zoe Sadokierski
Hand moving collage elements on a paper theatre stage
Hands moving collage elements on a paper theatre stage
Hand moving collage elements on a paper theatre stage
Hand moving collage elements on a paper theatre stage
Hand moving collage elements on a paper theatre stage
Process cutting – extracting a naturalist, himself an extractivist.