New political puppets head to capital

SOPHIE SPEER
Last updated 05:00 03/02/2013
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KEVIN STENT/Fairfax NZ

BACK IN BUSINESS: Backbencher owner Alistair Boyce with the original Todd Blackadder puppet which survived the fire and will be going back up in the refurbished bar.

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Seven bespoke puppets of the "most influential" politicians in the Beehive will join old favourites when The Backbencher reopens in Wellington this month.

But owner Alistair Boyce is not saying who the MPs are - and each puppet will be unveiled by the politician it was modelled on, to give them "a right of reply".

Spontaneously combusting tea towels caused a fire which gutted the Molesworth St pub and restaurant - a favoured haunt of political types - last June.

Work is on track to reopen the bar with a private function on February 12, followed by a soft public opening by the end of that week.

"There's a huge level of excitement," Boyce said.

"Every day people are peeking their heads in.

"We're trying to keep people out all the time."

The bar would be a "totally new premises with a historical facade". More than $1 million of restrengthening work has been tied in with the refurbishment, and the kitchen has been shifted to the back of the building, allowing more outdoor seating on Molesworth St.

A new bar named Standing Orders is being created at the front of the building. That will house the political puppets, while a sports-themed back bar will feature puppets of Jonah Lomu, Todd Blackadder and Colin Meads.

The final cost of the refurbishment was not known, he said.

"It's a huge investment. It's investing in these politicians over the road." The new effigies have been created by puppet maker Bryce Curtis and are being stored in a "secret location" until they were put up at the bar before the February 12 event.

They would be draped in calico until each of the politicians was able to unveil them.

The moment they saw their satirical puppet would be worth the wait, he said.

While Curtis made the more recent puppets, the originals were made for the 1980s television show Public Eye by the Gibson Group.

Political panel show Back Benches would again be filmed in the bar, with Prime screening 20 episodes, hosted by Wallace Chapman, from April.

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