Unruly tourists saga finally hitting the stage as opera

Remember that hare-brained idea someone had about turning the unruly tourists saga into an opera?

It divided the arts world, and many thought it was a waste of funding, but now the opera's been written and is about to hit the stage.

Long before there was a theatre show, the unruly tourists captured an audience all by themselves with their real-life performance. Now, the family of six's antics have been immortalised on the stage. 

"We've created a work of satire," said Thomas de Mallet Burgess, general director of New Zealand Opera and director of The Unruly Tourists.

"It's very funny, but also it has some acerbic observations about our behaviour, other people's behaviour, and what happens when those two things collide."

In 2019, collide they did. Hotel rooms were vandalised, Red Bulls nicked from petrol stations, and a trail of rubbish left on Takapuna Beach. While none of them were major crimes, 10,000 Kiwis signed a petition to have the family deported

Needless to say, there was plenty of material to work with.

"The New Zealand public are opera singers, and the tourists are music theatre actors. So there's a stylistic eclecticism, but also a clash of styles, which is fun for the audience but that tells the story in the way we want it to," said Luke Di Somma, composer and conductor of The Unruly Tourists.

The show tracks the unruly family from their arrival at Auckland Airport, with a few well-known faces involved.

"I'm Margaret Murphy, and I'm one of a family of five. Well, and a baby, so there's six," said actor Jennifer Ward-Lealand.

But the most iconic family member - the young boy who wore a Bunnings hat and told locals he was "going to punch your brains out" - is played by two young performers, William Kelly and Marley Grgicevich.

"He's very bratty and very rude. He would also pick a fight with anyone."

Mostly, the show pokes fun, not at the tourists, but perhaps an unexpected target - us Kiwis.

"[I'm looking forward to] seeing the audience laugh, or hearing the audience laugh, he says with his fingers crossed," de Mallet Burgess said.

Audiences can be the judge when the show begins next week at the Bruce Mason Centre in Auckland.