Curtin University alumni and guests attended the preview of the extraordinary operatic production of The Rabbits, a world-premier showcase event of the 2015 Perth International Arts Festival, in a special night organised by Curtin’s Office of Advancement. The 150 attendees were treated to premium seats in the dress circle to view the spectacular show.
Based on the picture book written by John Marsden (author of much-loved Tomorrow when the war began series) with illustrations by Shaun Tan (winner of a 2011 Academy Award for his short film, The Lost Thing), The Rabbits parallels the tumultuous reality of Australia’s colonial history. The haunting story revolves around the Marsupials, whose world is one day invaded by the expansionist Rabbits. Though the Marsupials fight back, the greedy and multiplicative Rabbits overwhelmingly defeat them.
The simple, child-like narrative and surreal imagery of The Rabbits inspired John Sheedy, Artistic Director of the Perth’s Barking Gecko Theatre Company, to approach Opera Australia with the idea of adapting the book for theatre.
With music composed by the multi-talented vocalist, Kate Miller-Heidke, and libretto penned by prolific playwright Lally Katz, the operatic adaptation was so highly anticipated that seats for its premier run at Perth’s Heath Ledger Theatre sold out months in advance – prompting the last-minute addition of extra shows to satiate public demand.
The resulting 60-minute confronting-yet-mesmerising feast for the senses closed to a standing ovation, stunning Curtin alumni, the general public and children alike. At a time where new opera is increasingly expensive and difficult to bring to the stage, this outstandingly successful adaptation serves not only to open up the genre to younger generations, but through the universality of the narrative, to also connect and provoke on the international stage.
The Rabbits is a Barking Gecko Theatre Company and Opera Australia co-production, in association with West Australian Opera, and was commissioned by Perth International Arts Festival and Melbourne Festival.
Moved to Poetry: Curtin alumna pens her response to the viewing of The Rabbits
On a sultry summer’s night
the city clammy with dance and song
a night of rabbits and marsupials
and everyone has a story to recall.
In groups, we huddle down
shiny stairs, the State Theatre
warm as rabbits, nibbling opera,
cocooned in timber, we talk of theatre
compare to Parma, the Teatro Farnese
exhibitions in Milan, the art we learned
how Curtin’s journey has taken us
our art, our words on parade.
The first glass of champagne cold
the sultry night forgotten.
Above stairs: our older selves
Below stairs: we mingle with the night
meet again our younger selves –
undress the imprints we once wore.
Rose van Son, Writer and Poet
Studied: Bachelor of Arts (English); Graduate Certificate in Business
Related Degrees: Bachelor of Arts (Literary and Cultural Studies); Bachelor of Arts (Creative Writing)