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Thousands expected to flock to Broome’s Town Beach for larger than life shorebirds

Rhiannon Clarke -

Theatre Kimberley's The Shorebird Quest has returned to Broome, with thousands of people expected to line the shores of Yawuru Nagulagun / Roebuck Bay for the show.

A flock of giant puppets takes flight and illuminates the mudflats under the Kimberley night sky as Yawuru Country knowledge is brought to life by hundreds of performers in this romantic-comedy musical.

The show tells a cross-cultural story of the thousands of endangered migratory shorebirds which make the perilous journey from Siberia to Broome to feed each year.

The performance of puppetry, storytelling and dance has been researched and co-written with Parks and Wildlife Services Yawuru Rangers and Yawuru Country Managers.

Yawuru Training Coordinator Monica Edgar said: "Yawuru Country Managers have been working with Theatre Kimberley on the script for The Shorebird Quest since 2019. It's important to share with the younger generation how to look after our marine park."

"Roebuck Bay Marine Park is an important place for Yawuru people to carry on their knowledge and undertake cultural hunting and gathering, which we share with the wider community.''

Artistic Director, Meredith Bell said following on from the show's previous success, "we can't wait to bring The Shorebird Quest back to Broome".

"We are privileged to work with an incredible team of artists, Yawuru Rangers, and community members, to tell the love story of Curtis the Curlew," she said.

"He flies all the way from Siberia to spend the wet season here, where he depends on the incredibly important ecosystem of the mudflats on Yawuru Country."

Puppeteers operate large-scale puppets of curlews and an arctic fox. Image: Ben Houston Photography.

After four years in hibernation the popular four-metre-tall giant puppets, threatened Eastern Curlews named Curtis, Keith, and Kerry, will stretch out their wings, returning to the one-of-a-kind 40-metre muddy stage on Saturday 20 May.

More than 300 puppets and props, including mosquitos, dugongs, the sun and Kimberley moon, were constructed in Broome by a team of professional theatremakers, as well as community volunteers and school students.

Puppeteer, Bernadette Trench-Thiedeman is especially exciting to for the event.

"For six weeks, our brilliant team of makers and designers will undertake a rebuild and remodel of the giant Eastern Curlew puppets' wings, beaks, heads," she said.

"And structural modifications on the bodies, plus a full body makeover in technicolor, lots of transformation!"

This year's performance will treat the audience to six never-seen-before bird puppets, each with a wingspan of two metres.

Another puppeteer, Karen Hethey, said people should "come along and watch the giant Curlew heroes face off against the Arctic fox and other threats - but joining the great migration this time are a collection of new bird puppets, Red Knots, Great Knots and more".

Following the inaugural The Shorebird Quest, former Yawuru Ranger and puppeteer Eduardo Maher is returning as the body of Curtis.

Eduardo celebrated bringing the puppets to life by getting a tattoo on his leg of the endangered birds.

"When it's performance time it's all a bit of a blur. Letting other people control the head and the wings and where you need to just need to watch your feet," said Mr Maher.

Hayden Khutze and Musical Director Jaime Jackett co-written and co-composed original music for the night.

The performance will feature voices from across Broome, including combined choirs singing a new song in Yawuru language.

"It sounds phenomenal! I'm blown away by the capacity of this community to take on new music and creative endeavours, to learn a score and brand new music that didn't exist last time... it's very challenging and they're killing it," said Ms Jackett.

This project would not be possible without many local community partnerships, including the Parks & Wildlife Services Kimberley's Yawuru Rangers and Nyamba Buru Yawuru's Country Managers, Goolarri Media Broome schools, Environs Kimberley and the Shire of Broome.

The free family friendly event will be performed at Broome's Town Beach, an alcohol-free venue, from 5pm on Saturday 20 May 2023.

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