Photos – Toni Wilkinson
John Marsden and Shaun Tan’s The Rabbits is a powerful work of art in prose and pictures. The rich imagery of Tan’s unique and beguiling artwork matched with Marsden’s elegant words portrays the history of our nation’s tumultuous beginnings. The poignant message of Marsden and Tan’s work has transcended art forms and soars, thanks to Opera Australia’s brilliant opera based on The Rabbits.
The colonization of Australia is a topic that requires skillful storytelling to be able to adequately bring all sides of the story to light. Opera Australia’s creative choice, to break away from traditional notions of opera and give Kate Miller-Heidke the license to compose the music for their new opera, has resulted in a theatrical masterpiece. Librettist Lally Katz has extended Marsden’s text superbly, while the talents of John Sheedy as Adaptor/Director and Iain Grandage as Musical Supervisor, together with the remarkable ensemble of vocal and acting talents gives, this opera a vibrant and distinct edge.
Miller-Heidke’s music is accessible for all and sophisticated in the way it merges opera, rock/pop and Gilbert and Sullivian-esque music genres. Miller-Heidke’s striking vocal style balances perfectly beside the pop sensibilities the indigenous Australian ‘Marsupial’ and the farcical British pomp the Empire’s ‘Rabbit’ characters tell their story through. Miller Hiedke’s role as ‘Bird’ adds further dimension to the story by infusing an almost omnipresent spirit through which the story can be carried across the generations.
Tan’s artwork is vividly surreal and splendidly realized in designer Gabriela Tylesova’s costume and set. Just like Tan’s visuals in the picture book, you can get lost taking it all in. How the performers use the costumes as they spring and amble about on the stage is also a feat in itself.
Taking the time to experience the diverse and deep theatrical storytelling and powerful and wonderfully entertaining performances makes Opera Australia’s The Rabbits a must for those who know the Marsden and Tan book. It is an exciting and moving work that compels the audience to reflect on our past while purposefully moving forward together to create a new history for ourselves and our beautiful country as joint caretakers.
Opera Australia and Barking Gecko Theatre Company in association with West Australian Opera
based on the book by John Marsden and Shaun Tan | composed by Kate Miller-Heidke | libretto by Lally Katz |additional music by Iain Grandage
Adaptor and Director John Sheedy
Venue: Playhouse, QPAC, Cultural Centre, South Bank, Brisbane
Dates: 17 – 20 March 2016
Bookings: qpac.com.au | 136 246