Posts Tagged ‘kate miller-heidke


The Rabbits


The Rabbits

An Opera Australia and Barking Gecko Theatre Company co-production in association with West Australian Opera.

Commissioned by Perth International Arts Festival and Melbourne Festival.


QPAC Playhouse

March 16 – 20 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

'The Rabbits' Barking Gecko Theatre Company / Opera Australia - 2015 Production - 10th February 2015 / Photography © Jon Green 2015 - All Rights Reserved

‘The Rabbits’ Barking Gecko Theatre Company / Opera Australia – 2015 Production – 10th February 2015 / Photography © Jon Green 2015 – All Rights Reserved

The rabbits came many grandparents ago…

What an extraordinary experience, to be offered a taste of The Rabbits during APAM (we saw a delicious 20-minute excerpt), and then be treated to the entire visual and aural feast last week on Opening Night. Commissioned by Perth International Arts Festival and Melbourne Festival, Opera Australia and Barking Gecko Theatre Company assembled some of Australia’s finest talent to create a stage adaptation of John Marsden and Shaun Tan’s picture book (open-hearted Adaptation and Direction by John Sheedy). This is a multi-award winning genre-defying production featuring a detailed score by Kate Miller-Heidke, additional music and arrangements by Iain Grandage, and libretto by Lally Katz. Rachael Maza has been instrumental as Indigenous Consultant. It doesn’t disappoint. However, unlike The Secret River, which also features magnificent music by Grandage, musical direction by Isaac Hayward and a heavy, heavy tale of the displacement and mistreatment of our Indigenous people, The Rabbits feels less optimistic. Poppy, who is nine and so smart, disagrees. She says,

We hear the bird calls in the beginning, and the bird calls at the end sound like we can sort it out. We can have our little piece of nature and they can have theirs. Even better, we can try harder to share the land. And the water. And the sky. In the end everything belongs to no one and everyone. We all live here together now.


Hollie Andrew who plays Coda, the marsupial who sings The Kite Song when the children are taken away, told Elissa Blake, “My mother was adopted so we don’t know where we are from,” she says. “I don’t know who my people are. So I’m singing on behalf of my ancestors in a lot of ways. I imagine my ancestors are calling out to me. I absolutely dig into it. It’s been a gift as an actor. It’s pretty raw but it’s healed me in a lot of ways, too.

“I love that this show says what has happened and then poses the question, ‘where do we go from here?'” Andrew says. “We need to own what has happened and together find a way to move forward. That’s the beauty of this story.” The story unsettles us and The Kite Song breaks our hearts; it’s devastating and we ache… 

I ache, I ache, I ache inside


We ache as Kate Miller-Heidke mourns the loss of the children, wailing and calling to all the people and ancestors and spirits and spirit animals ever, everywhere. Her grief is exquisite, something we can never (should never) un-hear. She’s the all-seeing Bird, witness to events and narrator of our tragic tale. Resplendent in white and delicate feathers, glistening with the sky and the stars and the sea and the bright eyes of the whole world, from her central vantage point high above the land, she looks over its inhabitants without the power to put a stop to the desolation brought by the rabbits. Her voice is pure, ethereal, electrical. It has the power to permeate and affect, deeply, audiences of all ages and political persuasions. The only other performer in this country with the gift to bewitch us with her voice in this way is Katie Noonan, and I’d love to see her sing this role too. (We say hi to Katie on our way out of the Playhouse but we have to cut the conversation short in order to honour our commitment to another opening night around the corner…).

The band is slick, though slightly (and suitably) dishevelled, and quite fun, at times in good spirits and at times more sombre as the story dictates, comprising Isaac Hayward (MD and cello, piano & piano accordion), Rob Mattesi (trumpet), Keir Nuttall (guitar and electronics), Stephanie Zarka (bass and tuba). They’re front and centre when a false fire alarm stops the show at the forty minute mark and we wonder if we’ll see the end of it before having to get up and go. The cast and musicians collect themselves after the curtain fails to drop completely, and they resume the show some minutes later. It’s a live-theatre-thing, a reminder that anything can happen, giving us time to cringe for a bit longer after the bawdy pub song, Hop Hop Hooray! 

'The Rabbits' Barking Gecko Theatre Company / Opera Australia - 2015 Production - 10th February 2015 / Photography © Jon Green 2015 - All Rights Reserved

‘The Rabbits’ Barking Gecko Theatre Company / Opera Australia – 2015 Production – 10th February 2015 / Photography © Jon Green 2015 – All Rights Reserved

The rabbits are bombastic, very British, Gilbert & Sullivan style operatic singers, each with his own quirky personality. (Kaneen Breen as the Scientist is especially memorable). The marsupials on the other hand, are grounded contemporary music theatre/pop vocalists (I’d love to hear more from Marcus Corowa); they remind me stylistically of The Lion King and Disney generally. Friends tell me after the show that this combination isn’t their favourite aspect of the production but I like the stark contrast, and I can appreciate that it’s part of the strategy now, whether or not it was originally intended as such, to draw a more diverse audience.


Visually too, it’s a stark and sumptuous production, beautifully conveying the essence of this great Southern land, its creatures, its colours, its textures, its heat, and all its hope and hopelessness. The production looks enough like the pages of the book to satisfy fans of Tan’s original illustrations, and yet it’s not so immense and grotesque as to frighten..the children. If we’re honest – and we are – I still find the original illustrations quite frightening. (Designer Gabriela Tylesova, Lighting Designer Trent Suidgeest, Sound Designer Michael Waters). The final image particularly has me holding my breath, desperate for the marsupial and the rabbit to step across – or around – the reflecting pool to embrace one another, or grasp each other’s hands or something but I know they’ll stay on opposite sides, staring at their own reflections, because it’s the final awful (hopeful?) image from the book.

The Rabbits, in story and style, is truly for all people. If only we can learn from this rich and challenging sixty-minute tale, and from so many more, and move forward together, hand in hand. This feeling, long after the curtain has properly come down, is the power of theatre, of storytelling, and why our stories must be told and treasured, and questioned, and told again and again.

Who will save us from the rabbits?


Comments on (the book) The Rabbits 

The parallels with a real history of colonisation in Australia and around the world are obvious, and based on detailed research, in spite of the overt surrealism of the imagery and the absence of direct references. It was named Picture Book of the Year by the Children’s Book Council, which in part generated some controversy due to it’s confronting themes, and was attacked on several occasions for being ‘politically correct propaganda’, but only by right wing conservatives of course. In spite of this (or because of it), the book went on to win numerous awards in Australia, the US and UK, and is studied widely in secondary schools. It would seem that some of my concepts and designs were unacknowledged inspiration for a section of the opening ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, although I’ve never been able to find out if this is true.

One reason for the initial controversy is that The Rabbits is a picture book, and therefore thought to be children’s literature, and wrongly assumed to be didactic, whereas it had been originally conceived as a book for older readers, and generally difficult to categorise. Some children may get a lot out of it, but generally it defies most picture book conventions and is not necessarily a good choice for pleasant bedtime reading!


Kate Miller-Marathon

Do you know anyone else who has seen more than one different artist over 75 times?

Andy Clark has now seen 3 artists over 75 times.

fan  /fan/  Noun: A person who has a strong interest in or admiration for a particular sport, art or entertainment form, or famous person.

The man may well be Kate Miller-Heidke’s biggest fan. He recently followed her halfway around the country.

Here’s his story.

By Andy Clark

Between 1980 and 2010 I saw U2 perform 79 times. In the 80’s I saw Welsh band, The Alarm 110 times. And now, just 7 years after seeing her perform for the first time at Women In Voice 2005,

I’ve seen Kate Miller-Heidke 79 times too.

My recent Kate Miller-Marathon started in Lismore. I even sold my ticket to the incomparable comedian Ross Noble to go to see Kate perform songs from her upcoming NIGHTFLIGHT album and her previous albums at Lismore’s Star Court Theatre.

Kate was joined on stage by her collaborator/guitarist/hubby, Keir Nuttall, and her long time friend, the angelic singer, Madeleine Paige. The 3 synch together like the legs of a Tripod and at times are as hilarious as the Comedy trio of the same name.  The opening song Fire and Iron is a delightful calming beautiful song, but the variety of Kate’s setlist is one of the reasons all the shows on her tour sold out within days of going on sale.

Old songs like Shoebox, Politics, Words and Space blend with the new songs seamlessly, despite the often massive contrast between the different styles of the songs Kate produces. Other new songs that are gentle and gorgeous like Fire and Iron are Tiger and Devil, whilst the absolute highlight of each recent Kate gig for me is the spinechilling story of a girl called SARAH who got lost at Livid 1997.

Nightflight, Humiliation and In The Dark are all awesome new songs on the setlist and Kate also performed brilliant acoustic intimate versions of Dreams/I Love You, Can’t Shake It and God’s Gift, plus the radio hits Caught in a Crowd and Last day on Earth.

From Lismore I flew to Melbourne (for the first time ever for a gig) for 3 nights at The Speigeltent and trips to The Espy at St Kilda and Victoria Markets plus Werribee Zoo and Park. The Speigeltent is a magical place for anyone to play. Despite shortened setlists, Kate’s gigs there enhanced the ambience of the venue and it was delightful to meet fans who until now had just been tiny photos on my Facebook. Talking of which, it was Kate Miller-Heidke who suggested that, at the age of 46, I should go onto MySpace and then at age 48 that I should switch to Facebook. Then in 2009 I videoed Kate’s Facebook Song at Brisbane’s HiFi Bar and after Keir added lyrics it went viral in USA, it intrigued Ben Folds interest in Kate and now has nearly 1.5 million views on You Tube. Are You F*cking Kidding Me? No I’m not and that is also the title of that song.

My most memorable moment from The Speigeltent was when Keir did something wrong and whilst they regrouped I shouted “He’s the Star” which caused the audience to laugh out loud to Kate’s slight dissatisfaction and so I quickly added “He’s the SECOND STAR”. Hopefully Kate and Keir will continue their trip from the Second Star to Utopia, Nirvana or Neverland and head straight on till morning. I think they are on course to become massive in 2012, but I have been thinking that for 7 years now and voting for them in triple j’s Hottest 100 annually, without success. Another massive song in waiting is Kate’s Southern Cross Tattoo, which talks about Hottest 100 Day being a ‘very special day’ when we ‘keep the VB cool” and “we’re gonna blow up the pool’.

Kate has covered many diverse songs, from Toxic by Britney and Little Water Song by Nick Cave (on triple j’s Like A Version).  Their current cover is Slim Shady by Eminem. This still amazes the crowd and if you like some controversial comments check out my video of this from Woodford 2010. Over 69,000 views to date and some of the best comments come from disgruntled Eminem devotees.

Home town gigs are always special and Kate’s Brisbane gigs were both amazing, but different. The Friday night seemed to be full of people coming from their work, with polite laughter and applause. On Saturday the audience reaction was sensational, with lots of whooping and outlandish hysterical chortling, like they’d all inhaled happy gas or a bottle of wine or two. I got permission from Kate and the Powerhouse to video a new song Toowoomba which they had debuted on Friday, to the parents of both Keir and Madeleine, who all hail from Toowoomba.

Yes, my hobby is taking videos of new Kate Miller-Heidke songs and both Kate and Keir like what I do.

Then The Finale of my Tour was in the quaint little village of Pomona, inland from Noosa. I arrived there at about 4pm. Pomona High Street reminded me of another lyric from Southern X Tattoo of “gonna file er up at the Servo” because as we arrived at a deserted street there was the Pomona Servo (closed of course) and as I said ‘The place is deserted” I realised the wooden building next to the Servo was indeed The Majestic Silent Movie Theatre where Kate was playing that night. It contained an old organ, fit and ready for Barry Morgan. I fantasised about Kate playing Psycho Killer on it. Then 5 hours later my fantasy was almost fulfilled as Kate performed Psycho Killer as an extra song in her Encore and dedicated it to me as I had now seen her 79 times! Kate confirmed she is now “equal with U2 in [my] Gig Diary”. Unfortunately my Gig Diary only began in 2006, when I decided I needed to monitor my Gigging and Kate’ing. I wish I’d started it just after I saw Roxy Music in 1974.

After 268 gigs by 3 artists and thousands of others by over 500 other artists I have no intention of stopping and my next Utopian goal is to combine my 80th Kate Miller-Heidke Show with my 10th consecutive Splendour in the Grass.

Don’t dream it, be it. Keep straight on till morning. I got the way. Thanks for Today.

Bring on Nightflight, Sarah and the video to a song on Nightflight  (the video is ready to launch), Ride this feeling.

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