Junior reviewers Isabel and Eddy Greentree appreciate the strong message about the need for change in this lively opera aimed at young audiences.
Our Little Inventor, West Australian Opera & Awesome Festival ·
His Majesty’s Theatre, 1 October 2022 ·
Review by Isabel Greentree, age 12 ·
In a world built by men, how can a young girl’s voice be heard? In Our Little Inventor, we meet Nell (Grace Chow), a 15-year-old girl who has a passion for science and inventing. She has created an invention to help her ailing world; a machine to clear away the smoke and pollution from the city.
As she arrives at the city, she is surrounded by unfamiliar sights and people. She sees a boy on the ground, whose asthma is choking him. Nell quickly turns on her machine, which helps the boy to breathe. She then demonstrates to the awestruck crowd how it can clear the smoke in a direct area.
For the first time, the people can breathe. They insist she takes her invention to the mayor (Brett Peart), but he refuses to listen to her. Her machine is destroyed, and Nell sadly goes back home.
However, Nell and her invention have resonated with Mrs Livingston Li (Rachelle Durkin), who wants to be on the city council but is also ignored by the mayor because she is a woman. Mrs Li requests that Nell bring her repaired invention back to the city, and gives her a chance to show the citizens her improved machine. The people take off their masks as they can now breathe, and they celebrate Nell for her invention.
I felt that this performance has two particular themes. The first and most obvious is pollution and climate change. The city is full of smoke and pollution, and the mayor denies the problem, protesting that the effects caused by the pollution are merely allergies.
The second theme is gender inequality. Both Nell and Mrs Li are ignored by the mayor and his supporters because they are female, and because they are trying to bring in changes that the mayor doesn’t want. They have to fight to get their message across, and one of the main songs is about it being hard to be a girl in a world built for men.
The story is enjoyable and very easy to follow. Most of the main characters are opera singers, but I find it interesting that Grace Chow, playing Nell, isn’t from an opera background. It creates a contrast with the other characters and because she sings very loudly, it gives Nell a bubbly, overenthusiastic personality.
The children’s chorus (West Australian Young Voices) also sing very well, and add some background characters to some of the scenes.
The West Australian Youth Orchestra provide the music for the songs. The music is beautiful and adds emotion to the performance. The lighting (Kristie Smith) is very effective, and it is used to highlight characters in the show, and to add affects like the smoke in the city. This is used to great effect in the scene when Nell first demonstrates her invention, and it slowly drains all the smoke from the set.
Overall, I really enjoyed the show which is part of the Awesome Festival for young people. I think it will be appreciated by people of all ages, but older children and adults may better understand some of the implied themes.
Review by Eddy Greentree, age 10 ·
Our Little Inventor is a story about a little girl, Nell, who makes an invention to clean the smoky air in the big city.
Because it is an opera, the story is told through song. Grace Chow, who plays Nell, sings in a normal voice but it is quite loud when she gets excited. The children’s chorus also sing in normal voices and they are very good singers. Sometimes they sing in different parts, which is my favourite part of the opera. The adult performers in the story are opera singers, with strong voices which project across the whole theatre. Their singing is amazing, especially Mrs Livingston Li (Rachelle Durkin) whose voice is beautiful. The mayor (Brett Peart) has a deep, ringing voice and sings very clearly.
Sometimes it is hard to hear the words as the children or Nell sing but there are screens on the side of the stage showing the words. I think this is very useful and helps me to understand the story.
There are a lot of musicians playing instruments under the stage, where we could only see a bit. At the beginning, the music is very loud and I can’t hear the children singing. In the most dramatic parts of the story, the percussion helps the audience to feel excited.
The stage and set are important to set the scene for each part of the story. At Nell’s home, there is a circular symbol with lots of squares which looks like a Chinese good luck symbol. There are lots of different backdrops and a projector is used to show the smoky air in the city. When Nell turns on her machine, the lights make it look as if the machine is sucking in the smoke.
The story is meant to tell us about fixing climate change, but I find it interesting that the main character is making a new machine to fix the problems caused by other machines. Can we really stop climate change without changing our smoky factories? This story has made me think more about how we can stop climate change.