Shorebird story told on a grand scale

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Carly LadenBroome Advertiser
Puppeteers operate large-scale puppets of curlews and an arctic fox.
Camera IconPuppeteers operate large-scale puppets of curlews and an arctic fox. Credit: Ben Houston, Supplied

Countless hours of puppet-making, songwriting and rehearsals have paid off in a big way after a large-scale community performance impressed thousands gathered on the Town Beach mudflats.

Theatre Kimberley, the Broome Bird Observatory, the Parks and Wildlife Service’s Yawuru Rangers, Nyamba Buru Yawuru Country managers and five Broome schools came together to perform The Shorebird Quest — one of Theatre Kimberley’s biggest collaborative works.

The musical theatre experience, combined with large-scale puppets, celebrated the migratory shorebirds of Roebuck Bay and was performed to an audience of more than 2000 on May 4.

The audience was captivated as the mudflats became a stage and giant illuminated puppets came alive to an original music score, telling the story of Curtis the Curlew on his migration from Siberia to Broome.

The Shorebird Quest began as an idea by former Broome Bird Observatory warden and production musical director Jaime Jackett, to draw attention to the need to protect the birds and Roebuck Bay, where they feed.

“Three years ago, I said two words to Bernadette Trench- Thiedeman and Gwen Knox — ‘shorebird puppet’,” she said.

“Back then I never could have imagined those two words would turn into a musical theatre production of such an epic scale.

“I am both intensely proud and humbled by what the community has achieved.”

Artistic director Gwen Knox thanked the many teachers, parents and young people who put their trust in the idea of The Shorebird Quest and its engagement with local schools and the Broome Youth and Families Hub.

“At the beginning it was hard for everyone to see how it would all come together, but once the performance started and I saw the children’s faces light up in awe and amazement, you could see it made sense,” she said.

Writer and puppeteer Trench-Thiedeman was delighted with the result. “We were able to capture the humour, unique storytelling and most importantly the deep cultural and scientific knowledge of country that the Yawuru Rangers and country managers hold,” she said.

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