What’s the best way to inspire action on the environment? Write a musical.
Two South Australian high school teachers are putting the issues of coastal erosion and plastic pollution firmly on the radar of the next generation, by making a song and dance about it.
Mount Gambier’s ARIA-award winning music teacher Scott Maxwell and fellow teacher Mike Bakker have written and scored new musical Shifting Sands, weaving timely environmental themes into a real-world plot.
Shifting Sands is the story of a sleepy coastal town, which comes under threat from an unscrupulous developer, in cahoots with a corrupt local mayor who wants to build a major hotel complex on protected land and are thwarted by the local surf crew.
“It’s a bit like someone wanting to build a Hilton at a place like Beachport,” Mike said.
“Coastal erosion, plastic pollution, corrupt local government officials, you name it, we tackle it. It may be fiction, but it’s based on events happening around the world.”
Featuring a giant plastic sea monster and a driftwood drumkit made entirely of waste fossicked from local beaches, there’s no escaping the message from this musical.
“The audience should come out of the theatre entertained and informed without us being preachy about it,” said Mike, who spent six months researching before writing the storyline.
“But they might hear some things that will scare them, like the statistic that 8million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean each year. It’s definitely a call to action.”
It’s a timely message as the South Australian Government implements a ban on single-use plastics, in move to help combat growing ocean pollution.
Both avid surfers, the pair are regulars at various south east surf breaks, where the effects of coastal erosion are evident and where the plotline for Shifting Sands was first conceived.
It’s the first major creative project for Scott since the ARIA win in late 2018 and the popular music teacher said it has allowed him to do what he loves – write and play music.
“The ARIA win has not only allowed me to be recognised as being one of the country’s leading music educators, but it also gives me some credibility as an artist and songwriter,” he said.
Scott has penned 16 original tunes for the 133-page score, including the catchy “The Ocean” and “The Esky of Truth”, both which he suspects the audience might be humming long after the curtains fall.
“The soundtrack ranges from surfpunk to swing – they all get stuck in your bloody head,” he jokes.
It’s the third original musical for Maxwell and Bakker in six years, with the duo becoming known for tackling themes far beyond the scope of traditional musicals.
“Not many high school musicals feature environmental impact studies and giant sea monsters constructed entirely from recovered plastic waste,” Mike said, with a smile.
With showtime looming at the end of September, Scott said say the cast of 45 students have taken complete ownership of the show and have also taken the environmental themes to heart.
“On one hand, it’s a fun musical but it’s also giving our kids a look at the world they’re inheriting,” he said.
“It’s about raising awareness and offering them a global viewpoint from an early age.”
Shifting Sands is on at the Sir Robert Helpmann Theatre from September 26-27.