Theatre designer Zoe Atkinson speaks Boorna Waanginy and A Ghost in My Suitcase

Zoe Atkinson. Picture: Andrew Ritchie d488990
Zoe Atkinson. Picture: Andrew Ritchie d488990

THEATRE designer Zoe Atkinson may be credited on two Perth Festival 2019 productions – Boorna Waanginy: The Trees Speaks and A Ghost in My Suitcase – but she doesn’t feel completely consumed by the task ahead, as she has done previously.

Free event Boorna Waanginy: The Trees Speaks returns to Kings Park after its successful premiere in 2017, while Barking Gecko’s A Ghost in My Suitcase premiered at Melbourne Festival in October.

“It’s really lovely to be working on Boorna Waanginy again and to not be creating it under that same pressure,” Atkinson said.

“When you’re creating a work of that scale, you get very limited time to actually try out all the technical elements beforehand, so it’s lovely to revisit it.

“And A Ghost in My Suitcase has already cut its teeth technically, so again it’s a beast that’s known and easily tamed because it’s not a completely new thing.

“It’s looking like a relatively comfortable festival for me, which will be nice because last year I was working on Museum of Water which was quite big.”

Boorna Waanginy: The Trees Speaks will again transform the trees and avenues of Kings Park into a moving canvas of projected imagery and soundscape telling stories of the six Noongar seasons and the need to protect the environment.

This time, there will be the addition of Boodja Djena: Ground Beneath Our Feet on the 1.5km walk, giving visitors tools to take action close to home.

“A lot of people told us at the end that they felt moved to directly engage themselves with the environment,” Atkinson said.

“We realised we didn’t really offer them that because we sent them off home on a dark journey through the park, which was quite long, not very interesting and a little bit exhausting.

“So we felt we could better serve the audience at the end of the production by giving them a much more interesting exit experience, but also connecting them to projects they can access in their local area, taking custodianship of the environment and the ground beneath their feet.”

In contrast, A Ghost in My Suitcase is adapted from Gabrielle Wang’s award-winning novel and follows the story of 12-year-old Celeste as she returns her mother’s ashes to her birthplace in China.

Celeste discovers her grandmother is a ghost hunter and that she has inherited the family gene of being able to detect and hunt ghosts.

“What you hope in all theatre is that people recognise their own experience somewhere in it and that they can relate to what it is,” she said.

“I think kids will feel that when they see A Ghost in my Suitcase and I hope with Boorna Waaginy that people will look at their own environment differently and recognise this is about the place right outside their back door.”

THE ESSENTIALS

What: Boorna Waanginy: The Trees Speak

Where and when: Kings Park, February 8 to 11

What: A Ghost in My Suitcase

Where and when: Heath Ledger Theatre, February 26 to March 3

Tickets: www.perthfestival.com.au