It may be a product of human frailty to cruise FaceBook on and off all day but on the odd occasion, it comes good. Yesterday I woke up the screen to see a post by that good sport, Kate Miller-Heidke. She put it out there that there might be some tickets for the preview of ‘The Rabbits’ at QPAC. Inside a minute I had my hand up - you see, I’m not a person who can spend better than a hundred dollars on even the most exquisite performance work. It’s not a matter of priorities, just practicalities. So the tickets were a blessing.
I’d seen the reportage so I knew the show would be great, and it was, a crafted hour of passion, precision and pathos. From the Marsupial David Leha’s buttery bottom notes to the curious high notes of Rabbit Kanen Breen, everyone excelled in their roles as both actor and singer. The allegory was clear and strong, founded on the fabulous images in the source material. Lally Katz’s libretto was graceful, the arrangements by Iain Grandage subtle, and Kate’s composing was vivid, fresh and colourful, exploiting and disrupting an amazing array of techniques and conventions. Her intelligent and emotional singing was a blessing in itself. And I’m not one to gush.
And then there’s the story. The frontier war - for the Marsupials, the loss of culture and land, the stolen children, for the Rabbits the confusion of winners who discover their prize is an empty one. And truly songs and images are so much better than text for communicating painful themes. I thought about the Aboriginal performers, so impressive, each the carrier of their own stories and histories. I thought about the job they were doing: representing the tragedies of the colonial past in gorgeous melodies, in tightly composed lyrics, in pools of expensively designed light among stage machinery of great cunning, for this pre-loaded empathetic arts audience. This show was telling ugly truths in a beautiful language. But these complexities and ambiguities didn’t distract, they added depth for me, because the whole show had a kind of dignity. And there’s the third blessing – the hat trick.