Brisbane’s Kate Miller-Heidke brings her brand new, uniquely Australian opera, The Rabbits to her hometown with a limited season from 17 to 20 March 2016 at QPAC’s Playhouse. The Helpmann Award winning opera (based on the much loved book of the same name written by John Marsden and illustrated by Oscar winning Shaun Tan) has been brought to life with an original contemporary composition by Kate Miller-Heidke (who also performs in the lead role) with additional music by Iain Grandage.
Since premiering to sell-out crowds at the Perth International Arts Festival in February 2015, The Rabbits has won four Helpmann Awards (Best New Australian Work, Best Original Score, Best Presentation for Children and Best Costume Design) as well as selling out shows for the Melbourne Festival season in October 2015.
The Rabbits breaks new ground in bringing together elements of opera, contemporary music and theatre. The show was adapted from the book – and is directed – by John Sheedy, the former Artistic Director of Barking Gecko Theatre Company. Barking Gecko is a production partner in the show.
While aspects of the book were particularly pertinent to Australia, Marsden’s metaphorical text and Tan’s highly constructed universe are nonetheless more widely relatable. According to Sheehy, “The story provides clear and unsentimental empathy with Indigenous cultures and provides a powerful study of a people and land overwhelmed.”
Designer Gabriela Tylesova has created sets and costumes to lend direct visual cues from Tan’s illustrations, while Lally Katz (librettist) has turned Marsden’s poetic words into the operatic form.
The story of The Rabbits is one of colonisation, civilisation and progress, displacement, destruction and the cultural clash that has formed Australia’s recent history since British settlement. Mostly however, it tells a story of hope taking root in a landscape of larger-than-life machines, native marsupials, mystical birds and white rabbits. This is a work that is entertaining for the young and the young-at-heart, a genre-hopping production testing the elasticity of what opera can be.
The cast includes five Indigenous artists including TV and theatre performer Hollie Andrew (Fat Tony & Co, Somersault, The Sapphires), Deadly-Award winning singer Marcus Corowa (Sydney Festival, Corroboree Festival), David Leha (Radical Son), a strong man with a stronger stage presence and a mesmerizing voice, Lisa Maza (The Sapphires, Dirt Song – Black Arm Band, Sisters of Gelam) and opera singers Kanen Breen (The Magic Flute, Partenope), Chris Hillier (Don Giovanni, Carmen) and Robert Mitchell, a veteran of Opera Australia. This theatre and opera milestone promises to be a delight for the whole family (recommended for children 8+).
You can book tickets now via qpac.com.au or call 136 246.
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television