Riverside's National Theatre of Parramatta

The Red Tree

Based on the book by Shaun Tan
Book and Lyrics by Hilary Bell
Music by Greta Gertler Gold

The Red Tree is a new piece of musical theatre based on the award winning book by Shaun Tan. It takes you on an extraordinary journey to a world of imagination where origami boats take you on an ocean voyage, giant fish host musical interludes, and parades pass you by. Shaun Tan’s award-winning book is brought to life on-stage in an adaptation by Hillary Bell and directed by Neil Gooding.

“A wonderful new musical” Nicola Bowman as Ava is tremendous in this quite demanding role, singing and acting terrifically...magnificently directed by Neil Gooding”

This adaptation by Hilary Bell brings to life a modern day fable about a girl who learns to conquer her internal fears. Tapping into issues of anxiety and youth mental health The Red Tree is a spectacular and entertaining show that starts a conversation about this important topic.

This is the story of Ava, a young girl who doesn't want to get out of bed, or face the world. Living inside her bedroom she discovers there is an exciting world waiting for us all out there. This is about triumph, hope, renewal and inspiration that will resonate for all ages. Tan’s insights into the inner world of the child are a reminder to us all that storms and monsters are inevitable and it's okay to have these feelings. 

 With an original score by Greta Gertler Gold this is a musical theatre production with a twist which fuses pop with traditional musical theatre elements bringing a refreshingly contemporary feel to the genre.

 Shaun Tan’s The Red Tree won the Patricia Wrightson prize in the NSW Premier’s Book Awards, and was awarded the ‘Le Prix Octogones 2003’ prize by the Centre International d’Etudes en Literature de Jeunesse, following its translation into French.


Having burst onto the Australian theatre scene in 2016 with four acclaimed productions, National Theatre of Parramatta continued to present outstanding contemporary performance with four world premieres in 2017 – Hakawati, Smurf in WanderlandThe Incredible Here and Now and The Red Tree.

As part of the vibrant Western Sydney artistic community National Theatre of Parramatta aims to be a principal arts organisation contributing to the continued growth of the fastest growing region in Australia.


Shaun Tan’s book The Red Tree is a work of brilliance. It is evocative, emotional and unique. Bringing the book to life on stage is an exciting challenge. I am thrilled to be working with Hilary Bell and Greta Gertler Gold to find a way of telling the narrative through action and music in a way that we hope will engage audiences of all ages. The casting of Nicola Bowman has been a vital ingredient in finishing off the presentation of The Red Tree. Nicola is a star of the future – a wonderful actress and stage presence, whose singing voice has to be heard to be believed.
Neil Gooding


“…we were spellbound” Theatre Now – Read the full review

Loyal to Tan’s insights into the inner world of the child, and to his own concerns as a father, director Neil Gooding’s vision reaches to the parent as well as the child.” Stage Whispers – Read the full review

A Triumph!” and “You’ll be swept along by the pure artistry and seamless stage, musical and set direction of this piece.”  Weekend Notes – Read the full review

A wonderful new musical” and “Recent Victorian College of the Arts graduate (Nicola) Bowman as Ava is tremendous in this quite demanding role, singing and acting terrifically.” and “Magnificently directed by Neil Gooding”  ★★★★ Arts Hub – Read the full review

Full length archival footage here

Ready to Tour

Book and Lyrics Hilary Bell
Music Greta Gertler Gold
Director Neil Gooding
Set & Costume Design James Browne
Lighting Design Verity Hampson
Video Media Design Mic Gruchy
Audio Design David Grigg

If you are interested in touring get in contact!

Arts on Tour
02 9699 7133