Last night ‘The Rabbits’ at The Playhouse in Brisbane. Presented by Opera Australia and Barking Gecko Theatre Company, and based on the book by John Marsden and illustrated by Shaun Tan. It was first performed in the Heath Ledger Theatre WA in February 2015. With a libretto by Lally Katz expanded considerably from the original 250 words, the piece was written and sung spectacularly by the beautiful and seven months pregnant Kate Miller-Heidke (what a voice) and supported by an array of wonderful indigenous and opera singers and musicians of huge talent. They are all the original cast which shows in the commitment and brilliance of their performances. The evening was a winner from the first haunting sounds of the bush echoing from the large mound of a tree/nest with the striking Kate emerging out of the top to its ending that fills us with questions whose answers are not comfortable. It is a fun story, it is an entertaining story, it is a tragic story as the indigenous Marsupials are invaded by the destructive Rabbits. Some sections leave the performers in tears and all scenes leave the audience spellbound and sitting on the edge of their seats, while being swept up in the glorious music that so echoes the sounds of Australia.
My first comment really must be about the surprise I got when I saw Robert Mitchell was in the cast. I had known Robert for more than three and possibly almost four decades. Now recently retired as a full time member of Opera Australia (their longest serving member) he was asked to take on the role of The Captain which also disturbingly comes with the heaviest 14Kg costume with a headpiece one can only imagine how difficult it must be to balance. With that extensive experience it was great to hear what others were learning from performing with him.
A remarkable mix of beautiful music both operatic and pop in nature, stunningly written by Kate Miller-Heidke and supervised/orchestrated by the awesome Iain Grandage who’s music has popped up repeatedly in my theatre going in the last twelve months. Such an output and always remarkable. Replacing Iain as Musical Director was the equally impressive Isaac Hayward whom I have seen orchestrating and being musical director for ‘Ladies in Black’, musical director on stage for ‘Secret River” and again on stage last night. As a musician he creates an amazing presence on stage. The audience love him.
It has to be said the Kate Miller-Heidke is another amazing graduate of The Queensland Conservatorium, Lisa Maza is another Brisbane/Queensland actor and singer who is now based in Melbourne, Marcus Corowa also hails from Bowen as I recall so these at least gave a strong local content which is something very special to me.
After the show we were so lucky to have a chat and some Q&A from the stage. Wonderful insights as always and what was so gratifying was the questions that came from some of the children in the audience. These are kids that are already gripped by the seeds of a passion for music and theatre. Just awesome! Yes it was meant to be an opera for children, but it turned out to be so much more and with the winning of four Helpmann Awards it is becoming entrenched in the cannon of new Australian Works that are adored across the spectrum from young to old.
We soon found ourselves across the road at an excessively noisy, but fun bar again as QPAC continues to not provide a welcoming atmosphere post show. Everything is closed and the lights go out. Anyway, Michelle Boyd, Thomas Davis and I met up with some of the cast and musicians Andrew and Kier. I had a fabulous time catching up with the lovely and dear Robert Mitchell, meeting the wonderful Lisa Maza and discussing so many friends we actually have in common and finally getting to meet the quite incredible Isaac Hayward whom I had wanted to meet and congratulate since the first briefing for Ladies in Black last year.
Home and reminiscing and getting ready for another night out of music this evening
Musical Supervisor Iain Grandage
Musical Director Isaac Hayward
Director John Sheedy
Designer Gabriela Tylesova
Lighting Designer Trent Suidgeest
Sound Designer Michael Waters
Indigenous Consultant Rachael Maza
Assistant to the Designer Michael Hili
Fight Choreographer Scott Witt
Bird Kate Miller-Heidke
Coda Hollie Andrew
Flinch Jessica Hitchcock
Roxie Lisa Maza
2 Stripe Marcus Corowa
3 Stripe David Leha
A Scientist Kanen Breen
A Society Rabbit Nicholas Jones
A Convict Christopher Hillier
A Lieutenant Simon Meadows
The Captain Robert Mitchell
Executive Producer Sandra Willis
Production Manager Di Misirdjieff
Stage Manager Garry Alcorn
Company Manager Kate McMillan
Administrator Tamsin Martin
Associate Sound Designer and Sound Operator Neil McLean
Associate Sound Designer and Sound Operator Andrew Poppleton
Touring Head Electrician Kyle Bockmann
Touring Head Mechanist Jeremy McComish
Wig and Wardrobe Supervisor Nicole Artsetos
Assistant Stage Manager Grace Benn
Piano, Cello and Piano Accordion Isaac Hayward
Trumpet Rob Mattessi
Guitar and Electronics Keir Nuttall
Violin Stephanie Zarka
Bass and Tuba Andrew Johnson
There is a performance tonight at 7pm and the last one tomorrow at 5pm. Grab your kids, your family , a friend, a lover or go by yourself but do go. This will be talked about for a long time and when it finally and deservedly travels overseas expect a huge reaction