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GOD's Drawing Board: A third attempt at creation

Lazenby Hall, UNE - December 2008

Stage Direction by David Curtis 

Musical Direction by Bruce Menzies

Words and pictures by Ralph Steadman. Music by Elena Kats Cherrin. Libretto edited and adapted for performance by David Curtis, Bruce Menzies and Cathy Welsford. 

In conjunction with the Armidale Symphony Orchestra, Armidale Choral Society, New England Singers, Penny Gurner and Melissa Killen's Dancers.

Produced by Moonflower Inc auspiced by Arts North West.


The universe, sun and earth come into being. Life evolves. Ultimately humankind emerges. 

Ensnared by the thrall of false religions, technology, and greed, the human race self destructs. A motley parade of artists and romantics are powerless to help their kind. Humans are both unwilling and unable to fix the ‘god almighty mess’ they find themselves in.

GOD, saddened by human’s folly, declares that if ‘he’ were to build the universe again, conditions would be imposed: a contract that would commit humanity to a responsibility
for its own destiny.

Through the innocent pleas of children and local community action guided by local‘heroes’, regeneration and renewal ends the work with a sense of joy and optimism.MUSICAL NUMBERS 

Prologue - Out of the stillness and darkness the children ask how can they be guilty of the world that they have inherited, and who can they ask to find their way.

The Void - The universe grows out of the void.

Birth of the Sun and Earth - The Sun is born, followed by the earth. The early history of the earth: volcanoes erupt, the oceans are in turmoil.

The Dawn of Life - Life evolves in the shallow seas – from primitive single celled forms to creatures of increasing complexity. Living creatures convert carbon from its gaseous form and lock it into the earth’s crust.

Natural Selection - A satirical and comic treatment of evolution. Strange trilobyte-like creatures crawl from the ocean. Creatures mutate and grow, annihilate each other. Through a process of the fittest surviving, humans emerge.

Humanity - Humanity emerges. Steadman’s humans are aggressive, proud, demanding that nature serves them. However the humans are prone to superstition, and start worshipping crudely fashioned icons. GOD is horrified to see humans behaving like this.
The orchestra accompanies spoken narration.

The Chant of Fatuous Prophecies - Acolytes chant a series of fatuous pronouncements with great pomposity: that all will be well in the best of all possible worlds.

Alchemy - Technology evolves. What seems to be benign at first ends up leading to industrialisation and the technologies of war and destruction.

The City's Choking Vapours - This is an extension of Alchemy. The end result of technology is a reliance on fossil fuels and the greenhouse effect. The carbon that had been locked safely in the earth’s crust is belched back into the atmosphere in a mighty 200 year exhalation.

The Sweet Taste of War - A king enters leading a procession. Two armies face up to each other declaring war, each claiming that God is on their side. They start by singing a catchy little ditty ‘Good old God, we’ll make war in his name’. This escalates into something that is dramatic and evil, as the two armies battle. Jet fighters fill the air and destroy each other (‘the sting of death’). The music builds to a dramatic crescendo.

The Sickness - This section is essentially the unravelling of The Dawn of Life. The biodiversity that was created earlier is destroyed. The orchestra in representing biodiversity, is now ‘killed’.

Poet and Minstrel Song - This is a satirical dig at the role of the arts. Can the arts help, when there are such huge issues at stake? Steadman’s Poet and Minstrel are mainly preoccupied with getting out their next book and symphony. In a way this is section is a bit of a dig at the work itself and our role as artists!

Chorus of the Damned Excited - Continues the satirical vein of the previous section. Two strange figures (the Damned Excited) sing ‘we don’t need to stress, the God Almighty mess we’re in.

If I Planned a Universe - This is a moving song, sung by GOD. If the universe could be planned again then preventing injustice would be the aim.

Life is Meant for Me - The children return and implore the adult world for a solution.

Dieback of the Woodlands - This section takes the global and brings it local, with an exposition of dieback of the New England woodlands.

Sermon on the Mount - Repeats the sentiments in GOD’s Soliloquy. Essentially that children have to be our beneficiaries, not our victims.

Regeneration of the Woodlands - Through community action the woodlands are regenerated. This section celebrates the work of tree planters in the New England and Dorrigo districts. Two figures step forward and describe their tree plantings as the rain begins to fall.

Dawn Song - A joyful finale, building out of the singing of magpies and other birds and the bird-like chatter of children.


It’s been our privilege to have worked over the last three years with two great artists in the creation of God’s Drawing Board – Ralph Steadman and Elena Kats Chernin.

Both of these artists have been incredibly generous to us, the Armidale Community. First Ralph, in giving us about 80 pages of libretto and 300 images and more-or-less saying ‘here – do what you like with this!’ With Cathy Welsford, Bruce and I gradually honed that material into 20 pages of libretto and about 20 images. We have struggled with the material, debated its meaning at length, and finally shaped it into the work you will now experience.

Elena included both Bruce and myself in the composition process, and I had the rare pleasure of sitting with Elena as she composed the piano/vocal score and discovered the melodies within Ralph’s words. Her generosity, and enthusiasm is remarkable, and she has created a wonderful score. We must warn you that there are a dozen tunes which get well and truly stuck in your head. Apart from all else, Elena is a great song writer. Both Bruce and I have had the very real pleasure of working with a great artistic team to try and create a visual experience to complement and enhance the musical experience.


GOD: Greg Balcombe, Narrator: Chris Ross-Smith, Tree Planters: Methuen Morgan, Ingrid Rothe, Soloists: Ruth Strutt (alto and soprano), Bethany Shepherd (soprano), Phil Oxley (tenor) Simon Polson (baritone)


Violin: Errol Russell, Piano/Keyboards: Robyn Bradley, Guitar: Stephen Tafra, Percussion: Murray Winton,Alto recorder: Zana Clarke, Elizabeth Dell, Tenor recorder: Nicki Murcell. Bass recorder: Fiona McDonald


Violin 1: Colin Sholl, Steve Ellinson, Jhana Allen, Margaret Howard, Sujata Allan, Marie McKenzie, Violin 2: Marian Barford, Maurice Anker, Marina Reader, Graham McKay, Anne Gates, Lachlan O’Donnell, Lesley Gray- Thompson, Viola: Laurie Pulley, Chris Cunningham, Cello: Sue Metcalfe, Camilla Tafra, Angela Farrell, Claire Chapman, Ian Slater, Rhonda Davey, Phil Emmanuel, Andrew Alter, Basses: Arlene Fletcher, Sarah Christopher, Vicki Harbison, Flute: Geoff Derrin, Sharon Davidge, Oboe: David Rowe, Clarinet: Chris Garden, Ben Sindel, Bassoon: Peter Maddox, Saxophones: Jane Growns, Horn: Alastair Finco, Kerry Hawkins, Trumpet: Noelene McGrane, Ryan Slater, Trombone: Dave Brown, Percussion: Wendy Huddleston, Daniel Bale


Solo: Robin Curtis (courtesy NZ School of Dance), Melissa Killen, Ensemble: Claire Baker-Abbo, Penny Gurner, Lindy Hardman, Elenja Harris, Bridget Labrosse, Alanna Proud, Serena Riley, Liesl Slocombe


Grace Beissel, Catherine Botha, Virginia Botha, Lauren Bullen, Sheridan Bullen, Rachel Colbran, Rebecca Colbran, Jessica Cooney, Sewa Emojong, Claire Fenwicke, Lucy Flanagan, Mollie Galvin, Melissa Harvey, Alexandra Hawthorne, Erin Henshall, Katie Hobbs, Victoria Jackson, Kiri Kearns, Nicholas Kelly, Siobhan Kell,y Brooke Killen, Caroline King, Jessica Michaelsen, Joanna Michaelsen, Hana Moffat, Stella Quast, Constance Rolfe, Eliza Scott, Rebecca Tafra, Nicola Traise, Ebony Wightman


Annie Abbott, Celia Ashby, Colin Ashby, Greg Balcombe, Jeanette Berman, Rhianna Berman-Prowse, Gaylia Bigg, Joy Bowles, Felix Burkhard, Gillian Carpenter, Julie Collins, Anne Cunningham, Jane Davies, Mary de Gabriele, Camille Dunsford, Liz Ellis, Carlie Fangmeier, Bar Finch, Methuen Freer Morgan, Sandra Galley, Michael Gibson, Waine Grafton, Hannah Grigg, Beryl Hamel, Dawn Hamel, John Hamel, Jacob Horton, Graham Jones, Kate Jones, Lissa Kathe Rummery, Sheila Kent, Deborah King, Lucinda Logan, Miriam Lott, Anne Matley, Pat McLean, Methuen Morgan, Vivienne Nano, Peter Norton, Phil Oxley, Simon Polson, Maree Puxty, Julie Raines, Diana Riley, Karl Robertson, Ingrid Rothe, Bethany Shepherd, Carolyn Shepherd, Val Sherwell, Garry Slocombe, Robyn Slocombe, Bridget Smith, Tita Smith, Bruce Southcott, Inge Southcott, Francesca Stahlut, Kerry Steller, Laura Stodart, Ruth Strutt, Frances Tafra, Isabel Tasker, Marney Tilley, Karin von Strokirch, Alec Watt


Director: David Curtis
Musical Director: Bruce Menzies
Director of Children’s Choir: George Torbay 
Producers: David Curtis, Bruce Menzies
Choreographers: Penny Gurner, Melissa Killen 
Design: Andrew Parker
Costume Design: Deborah King 
Lighting Design: Steve Sharpe
Stage Manager: Diana Helmrich 
Rehearsal pianists: Robyn Bradley, Peter Maddox and Naomi O’Hern
Stage Crew Manager: Pat Bradley
Crew Coordinator/Set Building Coordinator: David Steller
Music Copyist: Peggy Polias

Fund Raising: Frances Tafra 
Financial Manager: Garry Slocombe
Promotion: Marney Tilley, Chris Cunningham 
Program: Camille Dunsford
Layout and printing: UNE Print

Lighting: Steve Sharpe, Jamie Exworth
Sound: David Percival, Claire Horton
Photographs: Dave Carr, Len Zell, Colin Totterdell, Greening Australia photo library,
Terry Cooke
Recordings of bird song and children: Dave Carr, Al Heaney. 
Recordings of bird song: David Stewart of Nature Sound, Gisela Kaplan of UNE
Production Photography: Jim Vicars
Video/DVD: Patsy Asch, Paul Fogo, Ian MacKay, Shandy Whitaker.
Foyer display: Dave Carr, Kerry Steller, Bar Finch, Pam Menzies
Costumes: Deborah King, Margaret Bourke
Set construction/Prop making: Dave Steller, Kerry Steller, Andrew Parker, David Curtis, Kate Boyd, Diana Helmrich, Pam Menzies, Marty Lawler, Bar Finch, Pam Menzies, Garry Slocombe, Patsy Asch, Melissa Killen
Stage crew: Kate Boyd, Marty Lawler, Colin Barry, Jim Reid, Nick Smolders, Myles Powell, Pam Menzies, Lisa Quartz, Luke Pavel, Ros Brady
Front of House: John and Ros Brady, Heather Rigg, Gerry De Gabriele, Jenny Campbell, Pam Menzies, Claire Keoghan
Fund Raising Team: Frances Tafra, Fran Stahlut-Kemp, Jeanette Berman, Garry Slocombe


Adia Wright of Sobel Weber Associates, Angus and Robinson Bookshops, Armidale Art Gallery, Armidale Dumaresq Council, Arts Law, Arts North West, Australia Council and Arts NSW, Belgrave Cinema, David Roach, Gordon Cope, Gershwin Blue Pty Ltd, Greening Australia, Laura Teege and ABRI, UNE, Marc Ostrow of Boosey and Hawkes, New England Credit Union, New England Hotel, New England Travel, North West Dance Festival, Ralph Steadman, St Mary’s School, Terry Cooke, The Armidale Club, The Armidale Tree Group, The Armidale Playhouse, The Decade Band, Turkish Delight, The Jug Addicts, The Goldfish Bowl Cafe, Toby Roberts, University of New England

The full version of the program is available here.

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