Shaun Tan’s The Rabbits – now as opera for children and adults

The Rabbits is based on original illustrations by Shaun Tan. Picture: Georges Antoni

The Rabbits is based on original illustrations by Shaun Tan. Picture: Georges Antoni

The world premiere of the production was held at the Heath Ledger Theatre on Friday night as part of Perth International Arts Festival.The Rabbits, composed by popular and classically trained songstress Kate Miller-Heidke with Libretto by Lally Katz, and adapted and directed by Barking Gecko Theatre Company’s John Sheedy, is the short, sweet and straight-to-the-point story of the Marsupials, whose world is one day invaded by the Rabbits.

The Rabbits (1998) is a symbolic portrayal of Australia’s colonial past or, more generally, of what happens when a technologically advanced culture meets one rooted in nature.  It was originally written by John Marsden and illustrated by Shaun Tan, who has described the book as a major step forward for him on a personal level. After initially not succeeding to get a proper feel for John Marsden’s text, he eventually found a solution. He presented, as he puts it, “… more unexpected ideas to build a parallel story of my own. Not an illustration of the text, but something to react with it symbiotically.” Shaun Tan describes The Rabbits as a story about power, ignorance and environmental destruction, but also as a dark, serious animal fable, a narrative form he believes is understood by everyone.

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