Wednesday, 11 February 2015

The Rabbits, from Opera to Pitjantjatjara

Promotional image for The Rabbits, Opera Australia and Barking Gecko Theatre Company

Today sees the premier of a new opera based on The Rabbits (a picture book I created with John Marsden back in 1998) as part of the Perth International Arts Festival. It's a collaboration between Opera Australia and Barking Gecko Theatre Company, directed by John Sheedy – who also directed a successful stage adaptation of The Red Tree a few years ago – written by Lally Katz and singer-songwriter Kate Miller-Heidke. Large scale sets and characters are designed by Gabriela Tylesova, partly inspired by my illustrations. Like the book, it's a story intended to appeal equally to adults and children, dealing with themes of colonisation and dispossession within a mythical universe of animals. You can learn a little more about this production here: 

Both John Marsden and myself have had little involvement with this production, having granted the creators full freedom to draw inspiration from our book in any way they wish, which is often the best way of approaching the question of adaptation, since it is essentially about creating new work. I'm looking forward to seeing it when it travels to Melbourne later in the year, and in the meantime send my best wishes and appreciation to all the cast and crew. Chookahs!(break a leg!)

At the same time, a rather different adaptation, but one no less significant: a translation of The Rabbits into Pitjantjatjara, a Western Desert language from Central Australia. Although The Rabbits has been translated into several languages internationally, from Spanish to Korean, this is perhaps the first Indigenous translation. Many thanks to the year 9 and 10 students of Wiltja Secondary College in Adelaide, who write:

"We enjoyed your book 'The Rabbits' very much. We wanted Pitjantjatjara kids to be able to understand the story, so we have spent a lot of time translating it into our language. Even though this is a sad story, we hope Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people can understand our history better through this book."

You see their work here:

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