Thursday, 30 August 2012

Yarrabah....The Opera

Yarrabah is a lovely place, sitting beside the sea with stunning mountains surrounding it. The mountains themselves, known as the Walls of Jerusalem, dominate the landscape from Cairns when you look east, but I have discovered that a lot if people from Cairns have never traveled over those mountains. The drive itself to Yarrabah is stunning, fringed with beaches and a glorious view out to the reef as well as back over Cairns. 

Aunty Polly
Yarrabah's history however is not such a happy one, like so many of the FNQ indigenous communities that were 'removed' and segregated to places like Palm Island or Woorabinda.  'Yarrabah - the Opera' produced by Opera Australia and directed by Rhoda Roberts, deals with this history in a stunning but sensitive style that was even more special as it was staged in the Bishop Malcolm Park at Yarrabah itself.
With a simple stage, clever lighting and the use of large screens showing old images from the early days, there would have been a crowd of 500 with lots of people arriving from Cairns, many for the first time. The Park is on the edge of the beach and surrounded by large trees. Local groups set up food stalls and we had our Arts Centre stall, selling quite a bit of art to the 'foreigners'.  It was a stunning night with a large moon, not a wisp of wind and the gentle sound of the sea in the distance.

Mixing stars like Casey Donovan and her glorious voice and other OA singers with the local school kids and some of the 'aunties' made it a really moving experience. Sitting with Aunty Polly and come others, I was intrigued by how real it all was to them. They recalled the real issue of the the forced marriages, they roared with laughter at the exercise regime in the girls dormitory as they remembered it well and were moved to tears by much of the story.

The rule of the church

I suspect the highlight for them however was watching the aunties, their friends, dance and perform on stage. While the local kids ran races and played around the dusty park, the older generation roared with laughter at their friends and began muttering about whether there would be a Yarrabah - Part 2 which they could all be in.
Exercise in the girls dorm

I felt so pleased to be there and share this moment with them all. A fabulous project, beautifully staged in a perfect environment. The drive home late that night with the twinkling lights of Cairns in the distance...I was tired by happy.

The finale

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