THE famous Korumburra Karmai Worm is being brought back to life in a Melbourne theatre production this month. ‘Karmai’ the giant worm puppet which was inspired by the Giant Gippsland Earthworm was made famous in the 1970s when the Korumburra community came together to create the 100m-long spectacle. With the town facing economic decline, it was hoped by creating a unique attraction it would turn things around for the community.
The story of Karmai captured the imagination of Sydney writer, director and performer Melita Rowston who stumbled across a picture of the worm during a visit to Coal Creek. “Basically I was doing a bit of exploring for ideas for a book on tourism in Victoria,” Ms Rowston said. “I am a bit obsessed with old reconstructed villages like Coal Creek. “I was in the gift shop, buying up big when I found this really strange picture.” From there Ms Rowston began searching through old archives and visiting the library to uncover more and more about ‘Karmai’. “It is really a great story with all the amazing things that happened,” she said.
Fascinated by the tale of a 100m worm made of pink material, two golf buggy wheels, two salad bowls, a compost bin and a role of poly pipe, Ms Rowston soon returned to Korumburra to find out more. “I basically just turned up in Korumburra and started looking around,” she said. “I couldn’t find much and in a moment of despair I put some posters up around the town. “I returned to Sydney and suddenly the phone started ringing.” Among those to help Ms Rowston with her search were Hugh Hendry and Brian Blake. “A month later I came back to Korumburra for four days and met with people, spending a lot of time in people’s kitchens and lounge rooms. “I even went out and listened to the giant earthworms on a farm.”
It was during this trip Ms Rowston stumbled across the old trailer with Karmai still inside. She finally met the worm first hand. “I went back to Sydney and was telling people about this amazing story,” she said. “The Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne heard about it and from there we have been working hard to turn it into a show.” That show is now known as ‘Hey! Yeah! It’s Molly’s Travelling Worm Show!’ and tells the tale of Molly’s search for the largest earthworm puppet. The show will include many of the stories told by locals to Ms Rowston during her visits to Korumburra. “A lot of Korumburra people have posted pictures and shared their stories on our Facebook page,” she said. “One of my favourite stories which a few people have talked about is that during the Moomba Parade, the people under the worm couldn’t see anything,” she said. “There were a lot of people stepping in horse poo, so here you are in the middle of this amazing parade and everyone is just warning each other about not to step in the horse poo.”
The show will be held at the Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne from August 13 to 24. Tickets are available via malthousetheatre.com.au/helium-2013/ and melitarowston.com.