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Byron Shire
April 23, 2021

Barrier Reefer Madness

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Reef Up

ReefUp! is a dance and theatre extravaganza that leads the way in collaborative scientific arts research. ReefUp! use dance, theatre, some amazing costumes and the latest science to share the story of what is happening to our coral reefs and what we can do to help. 

One of the creators, Rachel Rowe, spoke with The Echo about this innovative project.

What was the inspiration for doing a show about the Reef?

I grew up living by the sea and keenly watch Attenborough documentaries. I also travel widely and see the effects of littering and beaches covered in rubbish. The growing awareness of the effects of climate change and the way in which we are losing the GBR, as well as my growing interest in dance and science communication led to the ideas for ReefUp! If we educate children at primary school age while also engaging their adults, parents, teachers and carers, we can assist the message getting through.

How difficult was it converting the research into a show?

Not really. I had great fun for a year dreaming up the characters and sourcing the costumes in a range of charity shops across regional Queensland in 2016. As a creative group of people – I and the two dancers the work was created with, Liesel Zink and Michael Smith – we had huge fun then creating those characters, developing movement and then refining the research for our spoken text.

What was the key vision you wanted to communicate?

A fun, accessible, lively show to bring the reef to life while also showing the dancers the reef is in and how we can help. This includes animals that can also be seen as the ‘baddies’, such as sharks who we explain are part of the ecosystem. We then talk through the way the ocean looks after itself and how there are some creatures who are adding to the damage of the reef and what can be done to turn the tide.

How do you turn an underwater reef into a show? What is the storyline?

Meet a sea-full of loveable characters (and villains): Manta and Ray, Slinky the shark, clown fish, Minke whales, and a devious Crown of Thorns starfish called Priscilla!

Three performers incorporate dance, theatre, music and amazing costumes, highlighting the beauty and precarious nature of the reef ecosystems across the globe, and helping

students explore what they can do to help preserve these breathtaking environments.

Australia is taking the lead in collaborative scientific and arts research, and this will be acclaimed choreographer Liz Lea’s third children’s show after the success of Flying Facts (a theatrical exploration of the history and science of flight).

You must have had fun creating the costumes etc. What is like like moving as a jellyfish, for instance?

The movement language for each character is different and we inhabit those characters according to how they may move and also how they might react to the current pressure on the ocean.

How can theatre communicate powerful conservation messages?

By delivering messages through movement, colour, costume, and music theatre can bring the same message that other media also bring. We can assist in keeping those teachings through drama – if this were the only message out there about the reef it might not go in. But, as kids are taught in schools, watch documentaries and observe changes themselves, the show resonates in what is currently happening daily.

ReefUp!All-ages live show will be at the Brunswick Picture House on Wednesday & Thursday, 3 & 4 January 2018, 11am & 2pm (4 shows).

Adult $20

Concession $18

Child $15

Family of 4 (ages 3–15) $70


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