A large-scale musical theatre experience mapping the journey of Roebuck Bay’s migratory shorebirds took over the shores of Roebuck Bay on the weekend.
The Shorebird Quest fused musical theatre, Yawuru country knowledge, and puppetry, to celebrate the bay’s migratory birds.
A team of 15 co-wrote the script, including staff from the Department of Parks and Wildlife, Yawuru Rangers and Yawuru Country Managers.
Yawuru Country Manager Ranger Eduardo Maher was a puppeteer on the project and was involved in creating the story itself.
“It’s based on the migratory quest of the shorebird. How it goes from Siberia through to South Korea and then on its way to Broome,” Mr Maher said.
“[It’s about] the struggles the shorebird has to go through in the modern time because of human interactions in those locations, and how it’s very important that the shorebird and the locations that it stops at need to stay protected and healthy.”
Yawuru Ranger Jasmyn Cook said the project was unlike anything she has ever been involved with before.
“It was amazing. I learnt a lot personally about what these birds have to go through every year just to get here and then back again,” Ms Cook said.
The performance featured giant illuminated puppets, storytelling, dance, and original music performed by school choirs and local musicians.
The Broome community was also given the opportunity to partake in the creation of the giant puppets.
Running in the weeks leading up to the show, puppet-making workshops were held by professional theatre and puppetry artists together with Nyamba Buru Yawuru Country Managers and Parks and Wildlife Yawuru Rangers.
The production was one of the largest ever collaborative works from Theatre Kimberley. In co-creation with Broome Bird Observatory, Yawuru Rangers and Country Managers, community members were encouraged to drop by the workshops for as long as they liked.
Five different schools were involved with the project, and they did much of the performance’s singing.
“There [was] a lot of [community] interest. We had a lot of volunteers putting in … their own personal time to help build the puppets,” Ms Cook said.
“Without the volunteers helping, it would be harder to get a production this large done in the amount of time we managed to pull it off.”
Mr Maher said the voices of senior Yawuru people became part of the show’s voiceover.
“A lot of the senior members of Yawuru put their thought into the project as well,” he said.
Writer and puppeteer Bernadette Trench Thiedeman said volunteers learned how to design, build and operate the giant puppets with a team of professional puppeteers.
While the workshops themselves brought the community together to gain new practical skills, projects like these often have multiple benefits within communities.
Ms Cook’s favourite part of the process was the scriptwriting as the team of co-writers had a “huge melting pot” of different ideas.
For Mr Maher, he most enjoyed operating the giant puppet of the main character, Curtis the Curlew.
The Shorebird Quest was made possible by support from the Australian Government’s Building Better Regions Fund, the Western Australian Government’s State NRM Program supported by Royalties for Regions, Healthway’s Act-Belong-Commit campaign and the Broome Community.
By Hannah Cross