On the rooftop patio of an old actors’ hotel on a sleepy Sydney street, Ronnie Burkett is contemplating neck joints. For years, he’s been convinced his are the best in the world, but some rare footage has just surfaced on YouTube, showing an obscure design used in America during the ’40s. “The puppet’s head went side to side,” he says, eyes widening, “and I thought I was going to have an orgasm.” The waters of the harbour a few blocks away shimmer in the midday heat as Burkett pledges to duplicate, if not surpass, this miracle of cranial manipulation. It will have to wait, though, until he returns to his Toronto studio. In a few hours, Burkett will leave this quiet oasis and walk to work, cutting down to the shore so he has an unobstructed view of the waterfront’s famous white half shells as he approaches them. “It’s one of those pinch-me moments,” he explains. “You go, ‘How did a puppet show from Medicine Hat get to the Sydney Opera House?’” A moment of pride gives way to gentle self-mockery: “I mean, it’s just a puppet show.”
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