Op­er­atic adap­ta­tion main­tains mes­sage

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Business - Tanya MacNaughton

WHILE the Gi­ants tra­versed the streets of Perth over the week­end, an­other Aus­tralian story was brought to life on the Heath Ledger Theatre stage.

The Rab­bits, writ­ten by John Mars­den and il­lus­trated by Shaun Tan, was named 1999 Pic­ture Book of the Year by the Chil­dren’s Book Coun­cil and ex­am­ines the dark side of Aus­tralian coloni­sa­tion through the tale of an in­va­sion of rab­bits.

The co-pro­duc­tion by Bark­ing Gecko Theatre Com­pany and Opera Australia in as­so­ci­a­tion with WA Opera was com­mis­sioned by Perth In­ter­na­tional Arts Fes­ti­val and of­fi­cially opened on Fri­day, Fe­bru­ary 13.

The heart­break­ing yet beau­ti­ful, and at times even hu­mor­ous, per­for­mance was adapted and di­rected by Bark­ing Gecko’s John Sheedy in his first role di­rect­ing an opera.

Yet it was ap­par­ent Sheedy has been an avid stu­dent of the art form for many years, and un­der the men­tor­ship of Opera Australia artis­tic direc­tor Lyn­don Ter­racini, he achieved a re­mark­able re­sult dur­ing the 60-minute pro­duc­tion, which is suit­able for ages six years and older.

The voice of the un­seen nar­ra­tor of the pic­ture book was given a pres­ence in the form of a bird-like char­ac­ter, played with op­er­atic pre­ci­sion by so­prano Kate MillerHei­dke.

Her open­ing feather- fu­elled war­bles high above the skil­fully de­signed set were an ideal in­tro­duc­tion be­fore the cast of five mar­su­pi­als and five rab­bits ac­knowl­edged the clash of cul­tures and en­vi­ron­men­tal de­struc­tion. The pro­duc­tion used dia­logue from the book and ad­di­tional con­tent such as a li­bretto by Lally Katz and com­po­si­tion by Miller-Hei­dke.

The bone-chill­ing scene sur­round­ing the tak­ing of the mar­su­pial’s young hit the hard­est.

Mem­bers of the cast from The Rab­bits.

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