Meet Our Little Inventor at WA Opera

By Marnie Adams, Contributor @ Kids In Perth 13 Aug 2022

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‘Our Little Inventor’, the first book written by renowned Melbourne illustrator Sher Rill Ng and published in 2019, inspires West Australian Opera’s latest family production by the same name. 

It tells the story of Nell, a young girl from the countryside who invents a machine to fix pollution choking the Big City. Despite excitement for her invention, the Mayor and other people in charge don’t share her enthusiasm for saving the environment.

“People should come and see it because opera is very rarely newly commissioned and, for young audiences, hardly ever. So it’s a wonderful thing what West Australian Opera is doing to invest in a young audience like this and invest in such a story.”

- Emma Jayakumar, Composer & Co-Librettist of West Australian Opera's ‘Our Little Inventor’.

‘Our Little inventor’, a tale for all ages, incorporates gentle humour while touching upon meaningful ideas of climate change, resilience, perseverance, and the importance of family and friends.


"Saying that I am thrilled to be working with Emma Jayakumar, the West Australian Opera, and the children’s chorus, would be an understatement. Admittedly, I could not have imagined such grand plans for Our Little Inventor, and yet Nell’s story has taken on a life of her own. I cannot wait to see her kindness and brilliance on the stage, and as always, I hope she inspires many more young people to create a future we can look forward to." 

- Sher Rill Ng, Author & illustrator of 'Our Little Inventor'.

West Australian Opera is presenting Our Little Inventor in association with AWESOME Festival, West Australian Young Voices and Western Australian Youth Orchestra. Sung in English with English surtitles.


‘Our Little Inventor’ is performing on 1st and 2nd October at His Majesty’s Theatre. 

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Learn More | Behind The Scenes

West Australian Opera - Our Little Inventor
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Go behind the scenes of West Australian Opera's 'Our Little Inventor'.

Q+A | Hear from Sher Rill Ng

Exclusive to Kids In Perth, we interviewed Sher Rill Ng, author of Our Little Inventor, to learn more about what inspired this great story!

Sher Rill NG Profile Pic cropped

Q1. Sher Rill, with the character of Nell and the story of Our Little Inventor being the first ever book that you've both authored and illustrated...
Personally, why was this story so important and meaningful to you?


Nell’s story developed gradually over a couple of years, it was only supposed to be a small personal project for my portfolio.

While taking part in a drawing workshop, we were instructed to develop a character and create a backstory for them.

It reminded me of a sketch I had drawn some time before of a mysterious man in steampunk goggles, wearing a mask and holding a plant-filled tank to help him breath.

After trying a few different character concepts, I ended up settling on this little girl wearing piece-nez glasses.


Q2. How did you create this story and universe behind Our Little Inventor? What was the process? How long did it take?
Has this story and vision always been in the back of your mind for a while?

Initially, I set out to create a typical steampunk world, but ended up filling it with things that I love such as the clothing from the 1910’s, elements of Melbourne to the Big City and being from a family of asian decent living a regular life.

These were all very loose ideas to begin with but, over time, it all came together to become Our Little Inventor.


Q3. Is the story of Nell and Our Little Inventor inspired by anybody in real life?

My sister was my main inspiration for Nell, so I gave Nell her intelligence and work ethic.

She also had these big brown eyes as a kid (still has) which seemed very appropriate for our young protagonist.

Also, after coming across a headline stating that 'by age six, girls no longer believe they're as smart as boys'*, I was concerned by this and I also related very much to this feeling of inadequacy.

Making Nell a little girl who stands up to the people who don’t believe in her or tell her ’No’ was my way to encourage young readers (and myself) to try again when faced with an insurmountable obstacle.

*Online Link:
Based on the study by Lin Bian (


Q4. Describe Nell in 3 words.

Small, intelligent, kind.

Q5. Take us to the moment when you first heard the news of West Australian Opera bringing to life "Our Little Inventor"... How did you hear the news? What was your reaction?
Melbourne was still in the midst of lockdown when my agent, Danielle Binks, first contacted me to let me know a composer and opera singer had shown interest in adapting Our Little Inventor into a children’s opera.

It wasn’t until I had a call with Emma Jayakumar (composer and co-librettist) that I began to fully understand just how exciting this news was. It was tough keeping the news to myself!

I loved working with Emma as we discussed Nell’s story in detail, and she has written such a beautiful opera.


Q6. Have you seen any behind the scenes rehearsal footage? Will you be coming to Perth to see it?

No, I have not yet seen any behind the scenes rehearsals, but I was privy to a live demo by Emma.

I do plan on being in Perth for opening night. Fingers-crossed I can slip into the final rehearsals that week!


Q7. If you could invent something... What would it be? What would it do?

Oh, that’s a tough one! Any and every invention that might help in restoring lost forests and our natural environments.

But something a little more indulgent would be a digital stylus that I could use like a brush more than a pen. That would be quite a challenge!

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Event Information

Our Little Inventor

Presented by West Australian Opera

Telling the story of Nell, a young girl from the countryside who creates a machine to fix the pollution that is choking the big city.

Saturday 1 Oct 2022 @ 3PM,

Saturday 1 Oct 2022 @ 6:30PM | Opening Night

Sunday 2 Oct 2022 3:00PM |
General Admission - Audio Described & Relaxed Performance with Tactile Tour

Sunday 2 Oct 2022 @ 6:30PM |
Closing Night

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