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For anyone with a penchant for performing arts, we’re pretty lucky Simona Cosentini and Simone Tesorieri call Cairns home. Since arriving in 2012, the Italian couple, who both attended the Academy of Fine Arts of Bologna, Italy, have made an indelible impression both on stage and off and most particularly for their set and costume design on many JUTE Theatre Company and Queensland Theatre Company productions including My Name Is Jimi, The Longest Minute, City of Gold, To Kill a Cassowary and latest work for JUTE, La Bella Figura opening in October 2021.  

Simone remembers first meeting JUTE’s Artistic Director and CEO Suellen Maunder back in those early days when he was enjoying time out in Cairns.  It was a meeting that would change the couple’s lives forever starting with the commission to build a table for the set of 2012 production Like a Fishbone.  Through JUTE they met Jimi Bani who was working on Half & Half with Aaron Fa’Aoso.  They were later approached by Queensland Theatre, thanks to Bani, to join the crew on My Name is Jimi, where they met and bonded professionally with a cast of other like-minded, creative collaborators including producer, director and actor Jason Klarwein and AV designer Justin Harrison who they cite as being integral to their Australian journey thus far.

Simona and Simone’s partnership is completely unique and special.  Individually they offer a multitude of talents but together they are a powerhouse, bursting at the seams of artistic passion and capability.

According to Simona, Simone was into illustration and animation from a young age and brings with him a wealth of experience not only in set design – having worked for Teatro Comunale di Bologna – one of the most important opera theatres in Italy – where he acquired a range of skills in scenography, decoration and sculpting.

“I am into set design, illustration and animation as well, but I’ve always been fond of textiles, fashion, the period through to contemporary costume, millinery and jewellery design as well as painting, graphic design and installations.  Together we are always trying to extend ourselves by being creative with our skills.  Right now I am into ‘digitalising’ my craft.  For as much as I love the old pencil and paper, I am broadening my horizons into 3-D modelling and implementing my creative process with virtual reality – while at the same time writing grants and managing our latest project. ”

While Simona and Simone are incredibly busy right now, last year’s COVID lockdown hit them for six.  Just two days into the production of To Kill a Cassowary, JUTE Theatre Company closed the show through necessity.  Plans to fly to Brisbane a few weeks later to work on Othello for Queensland Theatre Company also came to an abrupt halt.  

“2020 was a real rollercoaster, however, I would describe the last year as one of our best, professionally.”

What the lockdown did for Simona and Simone was provide space to create and imagine.  It was a local news story about the relocation of the Spectacled Flying Fox that touched their hearts – so much so they sat down and started writing their own story.  

“It began with Simone sketching a series of vignettes and giving a voice to the flying fox character.  We turned it all around and put ourselves in the shoes of these small animals.”

Simona said that in Italy people regard the environment very differently.  “We live in the Bel Paese, we observe nature, but we built so much over it, having little respect and care for the environment.  Here, we recognise that nature is part of life and it must be protected.”  

According to Simona, the story, which they’ve named Lucky, after their flying fox protagonist, looks at the impact of development, current legislation and is delightfully thought-provoking.

Simona and Simone have been working to develop Lucky into a full-blown stage production and more.  

According to JUTE’s Suellen Maunder, the organisation was keen to support these emerging independent producers by working closely with Simona to develop funding applications and provide advice on project management and Covid safe processes.  

“JUTE was very aware of the precarious position of independent artists during Covid.  Artists like Simona and Simone are usually contracted on a number of projects throughout the year and when all these projects disappeared with COVID, freelance artists found themselves without an income.  It’s been extraordinary watching Simona and Simone develop and produce their own creative projects and JUTE will continue to support where we can,” Ms Maunder said.

Simona and Simone’s worldview holds no bounds with plans to create a children’s book, tools for education, even an animated film.  All going well, Lucky will be presented on stage in 2022 but this relies largely on being able to successfully secure grants that will progress the creative development to production.

Simona said that both herself and Simone have always been designers who have yearned to use their own voice and ideas to give back to the community and an awareness of the issues within.

For Lucky, they consulted with CAFNEC and a rescue volunteer to research and learn as much as they can about the Spectacled Flying Fox and its place in Cairns.

“We want Lucky to change people’s perceptions about how they view wildlife and conservation.”

According to Simona, after Simone’s original vignette drawings, he sat down for about a month and developed the characters and events that would bring the story to life.

The anthropomorphic narrative focuses on a bat pack whose home in the trees is disrupted one day when the machines come to trim the branches.  Lucky, a young pup, falls to the ground, is hurt and left all alone until he is found by a little girl who takes him to a rescue centre where he meets a whole cast of injured animal characters from Snake, a large tree python, Pelican and Chad the Cassowary – who’s a bit of an egocentric according to Simona.

Simona, who also loves puppetry, has used her skill to give life to a group of baby bats which she refers to fondly as the bat burritos, and other characters in the play.  

In short, once recovered, Lucky finally leaves the rescue centre and makes for the city.  A tempest occurs and Lucky shelters on a mango tree in the suburbs.  Here he meets Pepe the dog, a Maltese-Shitzu cross complete with a strong Italian accent, who teams up with him to find his missing colony treehouse. The fact that dogs and bats are natural enemies is irrelevant and works to make the story more curious and engaging.  Along the way, they meet up with a new bunch of critters including the beer-swilling Ibis or ‘bin chicken’ and three crazy curlews who have literally been modelled on those from Cairns’ Pier car parking lot.

“What we are doing is giving the bats and all of our wildlife, a voice within the context of government treatment and legislation, protocols and coexistence of humans and wildlife.”

For this project, Simona says they have the band back together with Jason Klarwein, Justin Harrison, Jimi Bani and his young daughter Agnes and the support of JUTE Theatre Company.

Simona says automated puppets, animation, songwriting and marriage of old and new technologies will bring Lucky to life.  

“This will be a story that is emotionally relevant, that the public will care for and invest in.  We are just so excited, but first, we have lots of work to do.  This show means a lot to us, and we are determined to make Cairns proud.”

For anyone that has worked with or knows Simona and Simone, you cannot help but be impressed by their propensity for hard work, diving deep into a creative pool and using every skill they have.  And while they may feel lucky to live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world and be working and doing what they love best, it is not hard to see that luck really has nothing to do with it.

Written by Jules Steer

Jules Steer is the Publisher of Oasis Magazine. With a career in Business Development spanning three decades, she's stressed, #blessed, and coffee obsessed ☕

A solo mum of four "determined", "focussed" and "energetic" young kids, she is often found with her head in her hands, lamenting her latest parenting fail.

A cricket-loving hip-hop tragic, very ordinary triathlete and champion cheerleader of all things #Cairns, Jules is easily recharged with Shiraz and Vodka - sometimes in the same glass.

Warning: Most situations get sweary quickly.