The Blue Roo Theatre Company has rounded out another year of triumphant performance with the launch of Australia’s first ever inclusive opera. The result of their second dynamic collaboration with Opera Queensland (OperaQ) under the Open Stages program, The Bulimba Opera has opened to a packed house at The Judith Wright Centre (5-7 November) and will fittingly close the season on November 14 at Lourdes Hill College not far from where the Bulimba Hotel once stood; the old hotel (predating the current building) is the setting for this history-inspired libretto.
Fly-guy Jimmy is sent off to WW2 leaving his girl, his family and his community heartbroken and desperately awaiting news as they negotiate the economic and emotional toll of war. As tensions in the community rise, spilling over into racist attacks on Chinese labourers some bad news is delivered to the family by General MacArthur himself (the best character yet of crowd-favourite Carlos Heron); Jimmy is missing and presumed dead.
Arguably the tightest Roo production to date Writer/Creative Director Clark Crystal, who began working with troupe in 2009, must be applauded for lifting the Company to a new level of creativity this year. The Bulimba Opera is an epic production; not only in cast size (28 Blue Roos, 4 OperaQ and a live orchestra of 7) but also in dramatic clout. The cast perform with gusto, a plethora of unique songs inspired by the ‘The Beggar’s Opera’ format of writing libretto (the Opera text) to the tunes of famous songs - Crystal uses classic Australian folk tunes here that easily take us home to the old country.
The opera format sits really well with the Blue Roo cast whom all experience disability or impairment in one form or another meaning that to ensure the successful delivery of the text, spoken lines are usually repeated as titles above the stage – much like the surtitles used to translate opera. So this simple device of inclusivity travels really seamlessly into this production. With the OperaQ performers, Susan Ellis, Sebastian Maclaine, Jason Berry-Smith, Jessica Low taking the main roles, the Rousing Roo ensemble are largely in supporting roles but that does not subdue their spirits. Stand-out performances by Liam Maloney and Caitlin Manktelow. Manktelow surprising with such a voice that for a moment it was thought there were five OperaQ performers on stage. I hope to see more from this new Roo.
Once again the Roos have proven that creativity is a great enabler as they continue their journey through performance to thrilling applause of their family and fans.
Someone needs to see all the things.