Skip to main content

Letter from Lee

A fortnightly letter with love from our Artistic Director.

Lee Lewis BBT Theatre 2020 Stephen Henry 2

Thursday 21/20/2021

Steve Pirie’s play Return to the Dirt opens in the Bille Brown Theatre tonight. Last year, in the middle of lockdown, the play won the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award 2020–21 guaranteeing it a production. When we programmed it for the end of this year it felt like October 21 was so far into the Covid-uncertain future, I could not imagine ever getting there.

But here we are, having overcome all the obstacles of the year, having enjoyed the extraordinary luck of making it through Boy Swallows Universe with no shutdown!!! And while we miss that beautiful cast of actors who gave us so much joy, a new cast is in the building, ready to step into the light and take us all into a new tale. Playwright Steve Pirie (brave) will be on stage each night, leading a cast including Chris Baz, Mitchell Bourke, Sophie Cox, Jeanette Cronin, Miyuki Lotz and Aara Afraz and Cleo Davis. All these actors are making their debut on the Queensland Theatre stage!

We're all enjoying the thrill of creating something out of nothing, a brand-new Australian play. This is a story written by one of us, for all of us, about things that matter deeply to us, right now. And as we slowly emerge from the restrictions of the last two years and learn how to live with Covid, it is fascinating to feel how new stories rise up to capture our attention.

What is remarkable about Return to the Dirt is the hope it inspires. In a time that has seen chaos and anxiety and despair, this is the story of a young person learning how to build a better version of himself. At the heart of the play is friendship. And a deep gentleness. This is surprising in an artform that so often relies on spectacle and the rhythms of conflict.

Also surprisingly, this is a story about a young man that is not about violence. There was a row of young men, high school students, in front of me in last night’s preview, absolutely mesmerised by the journey created on stage in front of them. I could literally see the impact Steve Pirie’s story was having on them, moment by moment, on their faces. Magic. Thank you to the teacher who brought them to the theatre – I hope the play inspires rich conversations.

A teacher of mine told me I was crazy for loving new plays so much (he is a director who mostly makes adaptations of Greek classics). “You never know what the play is until the audience sees it!” he would often exclaim with horror. Strangely I love that. We discover the truth of the play together. And what I am learning from the audience for Return to the Dirt is that Steve Pirie's story is essential. A young man moves back home to Toowoomba to save up money to pay for his wedding, and in the process learns how to live. Simple. But so hard. And so funny. And so sad. And so hopeful.

Absolutely ordinary inspiration with which to finish the year. Thank you Steve.

You can thank him yourself in the foyer afterwards.

See you there.

Love, Lee.