The Brolga Tears

The Brolga Tears is a 50-minute young person’s opera/musical theatre which fuses a mixture of children’s choral, solo voices, young adult voices, dance and video.

It is musical which is an excerpt from a longer story, and is seen as the first youth opera/musical theatre in the Dreamer-ing Antiques.

The Dreamer-ing Antiques is a world between our world and the dream world. It is inspired by the ancient concept of Aboriginal Dreaming, in particular the Walpiri concept of the Yiri, which were songlines of the dreaming and travelling trails of the spirit beings. The spirits of the Dreamer-ing Antiques are sad and worried because nature continues to be neglected. They decide to call on children, whatever their ancestral heritage to take part in the Dreamer-ing, so that they can bring healing to the land.

Roxi is a teenager who is a keen reader, who is confined to her bed due to a long illness. She comes across the story late one evening, The Brolga Tears, on a young girl’s blog, as she is reading on the internet. It is a story of the young girl’s great-great grandmother, who was from the Kameygal Clan of the Darug, near the ancient Ka-may, since European settlement called Botany Bay.

The choir are the vivid thoughts, constantly commenting in the background, highlighting emotions of delight, contradiction and overwhelming sadness in the story. They interpret the world with culture-free boundaries, fusing elements from different heritages, singing a song about the unlucky stories of an English couple who were sent to Australia in hard times, singing an ancient Kamalarai Dialect about the sun, moon, stars or about the tragic death of young children by introduced diseases and conflict. I draw from verses which came from the first bible translation into the Kamalarai Dialect from white settlement, highlighting the ironic part of Australian history where sick and dying children, through introduced diseases from the European settlement, are being lamented through the white person’s words. They wouldn’t have needed the white person’s gospel message, but it was brought to them, and much was destroyed through this arrival on a land, where bays, rivers, regions had already been named. The limitations of our near past to learn, acknowledge and try to understand about those who were already living here is highlighted by this heartbreaking irony. How much we have to grieve for the lost people, languages, song lines and all its creative ancient wisdom, due to this narrow-minded past.

The choir becomes an interlinking of voices, where cultures learn freely, commenting, sometimes comically, and other times sadly with one another. These different voices carry their own names with distinct personalities, where the choir becomes the voices of the Dreamer-ing Antiques the Laugher-ing Curios, the Weeper-ing Relics or the Whisper-ing Vestiges.

The Brolga Tears story comes alive, the choir animates the stage with fabric to create a lake, four young dancers are the brolgas in the water, and the grandmother tells her story with the Dreamer-ing Antiques accompanying her chant. The story begins and ends, through Roxi’s perspective, so her young voice is a constant reminder of the present.