Composer Peter Kennard creates the music of the Whiteley love story

Percussive score: Hazelbrook composer and musician Peter Kennard will perform the production celebrating the highs and lows of artists Brett and Wendy Whiteley's love story.
Percussive score: Hazelbrook composer and musician Peter Kennard will perform the production celebrating the highs and lows of artists Brett and Wendy Whiteley's love story.

Peter Kennard has worked solidly for two years creating music that brings to life the story of iconic artist Brett Whiteley and his wife and muse Wendy.

The Hazelbrook resident didn’t need much convincing to participate in the world-premiere theatre production, and will perform the music live for each show as a “one man karaoke orchestra”.

“Brett had a quote he said: ‘I hate silence, silence is death’. He always had his cassette player turned up full blast. It was his essential driving energy.

“It’s a delight to tell the story. They had fantastic moments of drama and lived a large and colourful life.”

Kennard said the production will not just bring to life the tumultuous world of the Whiteleys, but also the rapidly changing politics and attitudes from the 60s through to the 80s. 

Wendy Whiteley, who is the custodian of Brett Whiteley's artistic legacy, has already given the production the thumbs up.

“I was obviously relieved (she liked the music).”

Kennard’s career in theatre and musical performance spans more than 25 years. The percussive score is all original – from the lyrical to rock and roll –  but also features tiny snippets of Brett’s favourite songs including Bob Dylan, Nina Simone and David Bowie. 

Brett and Wendy … A Love Story Bound by Art will see audiences immersed in the poignancy of the Whiteley world – from Brett’s rise to become a superstar artist, his struggles to express himself with paint and canvas, and ultimately the road to tragedy. Together, they experienced incredible highs and lows, and ultimately wove an unforgettable impression on the Australian art scene.

The production is written, directed and designed by Kim Carpenter with a stellar cast of six and three dancers choreographed by Lucas Jervies (The Australian Ballet’s Spartacus).

Carpenter said he had always been captivated by the story and had been “searching for a way to bring it to the stage”. 

The event will run as part of Sydney Festival from January 18 to 27 at Riverside Theatres in Parramatta. It is the fourth time Kennard’s work has appeared at a Sydney Festival. 

The production features Paul Gleeson (TV’s House of Bond, Home and Away) as Brett, Leeanna Walsman (Star Wars and TV’s Wentworth) as Wendy, Jeanette Cronin (Letters to Lindy) and Tony Llewellyn-Jones (Opera Australia’s My Fair Lady).

Tickets: Adults $60, concession $55 at  riversideparramatta.com.au.