Finding the Bunyip – Researching for ATRTI

The most popular question asked of any artistic type is ‘where do you get your ideas from?’

The question changes to ‘stories’ a lot for storytellers, but it is all the same, and it is always a hard question to answer, so I thought, for interest sake, that I would look back on the stories from As the River Tells It and give a little behind-the-scenes look at the research and growth of the stories.

Finding the Bunyip

The Show

The brief handed to me was to tell stories inspired by the Docklands precinct. The Docklands history was the first thing I dug around in, both through the net and books, as well as interviewing my grandpa who arrived here over 85 years ago via the Docks.

I learnt of the aboriginal tribes, the river’s original course, ships, immigrants, industry… Lots of little nuggets of historic gold to spin in to fantastical tales.

I knew I wanted Matt Brown and Matt Hood involved straight away, having worked with them on so many other projects we all work so well together. Matt Brown is spellbinding with his music, and can live mix it to match wherever I take my tales.

Matt Hood made the beautiful bunyip puppet that stole the show (and the question time) with roars, menacing lumbering, and a few nibbles of children’s ankles!

Why a bunyip? You’ll see.

The Ghost’s Pipe

There were a lot of maritime disasters in a book I was reading (Shipwrecks of Port Phillip) and that prompted a story of sailors.

The final piece of the puzzle was from an article on Maritime Superstitions:

“At sea, some words must be strictly avoided to ensure the ship and crew’s safe return. These include obvious ones like “drowned” and “goodbye”. If someone says “good luck” to you, it is sure to bring about bad luck. The only way to reverse the curse is by drawing blood, so usually a good punch in the nose will do.”

Ol’ Snickersnack

Based on a dream from long long ago, this tale was originally told to a sick friend on a whim as a strange sort of personal tale that ended with Ol’ Snickersnack being tricked in to thinking my heart was in my stomach and that was how I came to have my gallbladder removed.

So you see? Sticky toffee doesn’t seem so weird now, does it?

The Chimney

Well, this one was very well received. It was a simple tale really, an urban legend based on a photo of an old chimney in a field that I was looking at while listening to these lyrics:

oh mrs. o

will you tell us where the naughty children go

will you show

how the sky turned white and everybody froze

heaven knows how they got into the fireplace

but everybody’s saying grace

and trying to keep a happy face

– Mrs. O, The Dresden Dolls

The scarf was lying on my dresser the morning of the show, so I packed it and played with it all day..somehow it made it on stage as the perfect way to get the audience to visualise the creature.

The Chimney

Miss Begotten

A poem I wrote in 2012 for The Red Bird and Death…I had to tell it as one of my favourite fans was in the audience, and it is her favourite.

This poem is a story of love with an unfaithful man, the jilted lover becomes something of a ghoul in the orchards. Being that I live on old orchard land myself, I thought it relevant to the theme.

And besides that, it always gets a good reaction of revolution when she rips her lover apart 😉

The Bunyip

I knew I wanted a bunyip from day one. I didn’t know how, but I wanted it. As a child, on trips down to a small fishing village were I spent all of my childhood holidays, we would stop at the lookout at Bunyip River and I would strain my eyes at the muddy waters, looking for a bobbing head or swish of a tail.

Bunyip River

I went a little nuts researching Bunyips from my already extensive personal library as well as my local libraries. I found some wonderfully interesting tidbits that made me feel this was exactly the monsters for my last story.

Being originally an aboriginal myth, I was nervous, until I realised that this creature was also a major part of our collective history…such as:

Page from Research

The story of Mr. Green and his assistant Samuel was written for a laugh between Miss Begotten and The Dirt Sister.

The Dirt Sister

Originally written for two of my dearest friends on their wedding day (as a gift, requested by them) the story was prompted by research on death rituals and phenomena for another tale (a version of Cinderella).

When I found out about ‘Angel Lust’ the story just spilled forth from there…. No pun intended.

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