Koala Joe is a musical telling the story of a young Australian boy named Koala Joe, who is attending boarding school in Austria near the Tyrolean Alps. One night Koala Joe is overcome by homesickness and is visited by the spirit of Yalunda, the daughter of goddess Eingana the mother of all. Yalunda gives Koala Joe advice and flies him to a nearby zoo where he makes friends with a tutu wearing emu, a sweet natured kangaroo and a sleepy koala. Koala Joe shows how they overcome all their obstacles together to finally arrive back in Australia with the assistance of the dreamtime spirit.
Austrian born director and author of Koala Joe, Markus Weber, wrote and produced the children’s musical in Germany over twenty years ago with composer Michael Summ. Markus always wanted to bring the musical to the Australian stage. “It was conceived in Germany in the early nineties and had full seasons in Italy and Switzerland and Germany and Austria,” Markus says, “I always wanted to bring it back to Australia, because that’s what the story is.”
Markus is a slim man of average height; his baldhead, stubbled beard and loosely fitted black clothing are perfectly in keeping with the styling of a seasoned artist. Time is starting to take its physical toll. With his shoulders slumped forward and back slightly hunched, had I not just seen Markus in Koala Joe dancing and throwing himself on the floor with surprising agility I might have underestimated his ability to move. Staring into his bright studied eyes, I would never doubt his clarity of opinion or humour.
In 2017 staging a play with an Indigenous character (Yalunda) played by a non-Indigenous actor (Stephanie Rose Wait) is not culturally respectful. Markus says he has received criticism for his choice to stage the play, but feels that he exhausted all avenues in seeking a local Indigenous actor to cast in the play, “I tried to find an Indigenous lead—it’s not possible.” Markus states. “It is absolutely not possible and you will not be supported from the council or from the elders.” Markus stands by his rights to tell a story that has elements of Indigenous dreaming and to tell any story that reflects something from his own experience of Australia and Australian lore.
For three years he searched for an Indigenous actor to fill the role he said, but to no avail. Markus felt misunderstood in his motivations for staging the play, “It wasn’t really criticism as [much as] suspicion, they think I’m doing something to discredit the Indigenous people of Australia… I said to them, “I’m talking about Eingana the mother of all” and they said “Who is Eingana?”” In order to avoid offending the Indigenous community the spirit Yalunda now appears in silhouette and at other times the spirit speaks through the character of Jasmine
From the reaction of the children who attended the performance on Monday at the King Street Theatre in Newtown, any controversy is lost on them. The kids accost Markus Weber as he leaves the auditorium. They all want to know if the frying pan he got hit over the head with is real? He rushes back to the props room to fetch it and satisfy this eager group of daycare students’ curiosity.
Why would a serious theatre take on childrens work? Markus explains, “I live in Sydney for quite a while now, I’m totally surprised that nothing is really done for children.” Understanding that cost is an obstacle to taking children to theatre, he makes sure that the prices of his children’s productions stay down, “children are the audience of the future and if you don’t treat them properly as if they are adults, if you don’t give them theatre in a certain way which they can remember, which they want to see even when they grow up.”
As for the moral of this children’s story? Community, dreaming, trusting each other and understanding are at the core of this simple little story, “If we could talk to each other then we could avoid a lot of things. Diplomacy… If children learn to ask questions… Ask the right people the right questions.” These lofty ideas may trickle through Koala Joe to the few, but for the rest of the children in the audience, I’m sure they are still laughing thinking of that old man cowering on the floor as cowardly Kangaroo takes her revenge with a real/fake frying pan.
Christina Donoghue – Talking Arts
16 to 28 January 2017
Monday – Friday 10:30 am and 1:00 pm
Saturdays @ 1pm
Venue: King Street Theatre
Theatre Company: EMU Productions
From the team/authors that brought you Jungle Book – The Musical now Koala Joe – The Musical arrives in Australia for its Australian Premiere season. Brought to you again by Author/Director Markus Weber and Composer Michael Summ, Koala Joe will take you on a mystical journey driven by the spirit of the Dreamtime in Australia, lives far away from home in a boarding school in Austria. He loves the Tyrolean Alps and his training as a downhill skier. But he is desperately homesick. One night, a mysterious messenger from the dream time comes to his aid:
“I am Yalunda – daughter of the Great Mother Eingana who once created everything. I am the water, the rocks, and the trees. I am a bird, the koala, a kangaroo and an emu too. I am the ancient bow Toon and the Boomerang. I’m Yalunda your sister and Yoola your brother too.”
Yalunda tells Joe to fly like the wind if he wants to get back home. He tries but crashes into the Australiana section of a zoo in Europe. There he befriends Matilda the Kangaroo, Cuddle, the Koala and the Emu. They are also very homesick. With the help of Jasmine, the orphan carer of the Australian animals, they plan to escape from the Zoo. So off they go. But there are lots of hurdles to conquer before they finally can make their way back home. There is the Zoo Warden who tries to stop them, the eerie Tunnel Spook and Mr M, the Master, who wants to turn Matilda into a boxing kangaroo . With courage and the help of Yalunda, will the new friends find their way home to Australia?
Vocational Care Booking Form 2017 koala-joe-booking-form-2017
Groups 10 + $17