Performance review: The Rainbow Tree

An all inclusive look at family and connection in a show created with and about kids in Rainbow families.

There’s something magical about The Rainbow Tree. And I’m not just talking about the fairies, the glitter farts or the way it goes all the way to the moon and back. 

The magic of this show starts with its creators – Aunty Bear (Bec Matthews) and ZaZa (Sarah Ward) from Fat Fruit – who sat down to consult with seven children from Rainbow families during the COVID lockdown (over Zoom, of course). The kids’ imaginations provided a backdrop of wonder and adventure and magnificent stories about the Rainbow Tree and what it’s like to live in a Rainbow family. Anything is possible. 

Aunty Bear and ZaZa perform a range of original songs and the entire production is accompanied by a backdrop of animation and illustration by Jolyon James of Arena Theatre Company, as well as the voices of the young people themselves.

Members of the audience can sit in a chair, on a beanbag or on a large mat covered with squishy toys to cuddle. During one part of the performances we attended, when one child was mildly distressed by the loud rock music, noise-cancelling headphones were immediately handed to her by one of the ushers and she came back to enjoy the rest of the performance. All of the shows at the Arts Centre, including the one we saw, are translated for audience members who are deaf or hard of hearing. This is truly one of the most inclusive shows I’ve seen for kids.

The songs are lovely, the messages are resonant: in a Rainbow family anything is possible. Gender and how you identify is completely up to you and families can come in all shapes and sizes. Families can be chosen, friends can be family and family can have lots of different meanings to different people. 

Kids made up the bulk of the audience and spanned a range of ages, not all of whom were within the recommended four to eight age range. But every one of them was entranced, as were most of the adults, too. 

While one of the highlights of this show is listening to the stories of wonder and imagination of the kids interviewed – as well of course as the utterly uplifting performances by Matthews and Ward – there was so much to learn too. 

Did you know a Dibling is a sibling from the same donor? Did you know Chamily is your chosen family? 

While this show is performed as part of Midsumma Festival and has the potential to help kids from Rainbow families feel totally at ease within the Queer community, I feel strongly that this is a show all kids should watch, with the benefits of broadening horizons, increasing acceptance, learning how to love without judgement and be part of a better, more inclusive world. Not to mention also having a really fun time, with 45 minutes of dance, song and laughter.

Read: Performance review: The Listies Make Some Noise

In addition to the animated backdrop, Matthews and Ward engage in physical comedy, play multiple instruments, sing and so much more. They clearly love kids and engage beautifully with members of the audience, with which there is much interaction.

The Rainbow Tree
Performing Lines
Playhouse Rehearsal Room, Arts Centre Melbourne

Editorial Eye: Susie Dee
Designer: Bridget Milesi
Lighting Designer: Monique Aucher
Animation: Jolyon James Animator

Sound Designer: Bec Matthews
Co-Creators and Performers: Sarah Ward and Bec Matthews (Fat Fruit)
Co-written with seven children from Rainbow families

Tickets: $25

The Rainbow Tree will be performed until 28 January 2023 as part of Midsumma Festival before touring to Bendigo, Sydney and the Yarra Ranges.

A veteran journalist, Isabelle Oderberg is a comedy fanatic and has been reviewing comedy for six years. She also reviews restaurants, opera and theatre.