NIDA acknowledges the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the lands on which we learn and tell stories, the Bidjigal, Gadigal, Dharawal and Dharug peoples, and we pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders past and present.


NIDA Head of Movement on award-winning King Kong Musical

NIDA congratulates our Head of Movement, Gavin Robins, part of the winning team of the Special Tony Award forKing Kong.

Photo: NIDA Head of Movement Gavin Robins.

NIDA congratulates our Head of Movement, Gavin Robins who was part of the winning team given a Special Tony Award for King Kong: The Musical. Gavin is a practising teaching artist at NIDA who works with students in the Bachelor of Fine Arts (Acting) degree.

The show also earned nominations for Peter England for Best Scenic Design of a Musical, Peter Mumford for Best Lighting Design of a Musical, and Peter Hylenski for Best Sound Design in a Musical.

In the acceptance speech, Sonny Tilders, Kong Creature designer from Creature Technology Company, said, ‘A huge thanks to Movement Director Gavin Robins whose masterful creative direction and leadership molded this talented mix of puppeteers and dancers to create this amazing Kings Company. It’s their jaw dropping work that brings the breath of life to Kong every night.’

Sonny Tilders and Creature Technology Company are being recognized for creating the enormous puppet that is the centerpiece of the musical. The puppet is 20 feet tall, weighs 2,000 pounds, comprises of 1,000 feet of electrical cable and 16 microprocessors and operated by 10 dancers.

Gavin explained that the monster is ‘controlled on stage by incredible dancers who puppeteer Kong with a mixture of marionette techniques via ropes and pulleys that connect to the apparatus. These onstage puppeteers then must work in concert with three voodoo puppeteers who remotely-control Kong’s face, voice and body movement through a series of hydraulics and animatronics. The whole movement of Kong is controlled by a complex automation system that flies Kong in and out and dynamically rotates him and moves him around the stage. All of these elements are codependent and must work in concert with one another.’

Gavin brought his experience working as the movement director for Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon Live which also featured enormous creatures. ‘The work on Kong has drawn on many elements of my training and experience in visual and physical theatre,’ said Gavin. ‘I have incorporated my experience as an aerial and acrobatic choreographer as much of the physicality is derived from aerial apparatus, ropes and related movement. The work also demands incredible ensemble sensibility and teamwork, something that we highly value in our training here at NIDA. The physical and visual story-telling principles in Kong’s movement is a combination of movement disciplines and technologies that have evolved through a series of workshops and collaboration with a range of artists. The notion of a collective, collaborative authorship is at the heart of my philosophy in terms of theatre making.

Gavin says that working on the production has been an amazing experience. ‘The ability to play with epic staging technologies and a large, agile and collaborative cast of physical performers in creative development and rehearsals has been a gift.’ he said. ‘When the elements of design, music, sound, lighting and physical staging all conspire to work as one, the audience response is priceless and transformative. It presents to us all a model of an ideal functioning community where we are all truly uniting with each other.

This collaboration is not without its challenge, says Gavin. ‘The greatest challenge is co-ordinating multiple departments who have an incredible amount of specific detail to achieve, and synthesize these elements so they meaningfully intersect and harmonise with one another. When seemingly disparate elements find a confluence on stage the result is 17 people breathing as one sentient creature. You really do believe Kong is alive when this collective focus is mastered.’

For more information about NIDA’s Bachelor of Fine Arts (Acting) course or register your interest in applying here.

Come to NIDA’s Open Day on Saturday 15 June and meet the tutors, experience the campus, and go backstage at NIDA. Register your interest here.