The 2024 Season is selling like hotcakes! You know I don’t know that I’ve ever had a hotcake… I have been tempted to stage a bunfight… but generally my cake preference is lamington. In any case I am so glad you are excited by the plays we have for you next year. Because really it is all about you! And what you want to see at your theatre. And what you want to feel in your theatre!
Our 2024 Season launch was a wonderful big event with all the feels! There was a band, a bunch of lovely artists talking about the work they will be making for you next year and it went off with a bang. Quite literally! Because Dan Evans insisted on a confetti cannon for the announcement of Round The Twist The Musical and I forgot it was going to happen — they are quite startling when you are standing near them.
Thank you for all the photos you have sent wearing your new bright 2024 Season shirts. The gyms of Brisbane are glowing pink and yellow it seems.
As much as I am loving imagining 2024 I am also loving our end to 2023. We say goodbye to the Appleton Ladies this weekend. Melanie Tait’s play has brought so much laughter into the Bille Brown and the gorgeous cast have filled the whole company with warmth. We will be sorry to see them drive off into the potato sunset!
We are swapping the FJ Holden for some motorcycle action as Vietgone rides into town. Seriously, our workshop is starting to specialise in adaptation of vehicles for stage appearances! I got to see the first half hour yesterday and it is an extraordinary theatre experience. It is going to blow everyone away! Set in 1975, the play is a wild pastiche of history, emotion, hip-hop, poetry, passion and comedy. I have never seen a story told quite like this. It is truly thrilling. Dan Evans and Ngọc Phan are leading and extraordinary cast who are singing, dancing, rapping and taking us on a technicolour trip back in time to the fall of Saigon. And please tell every high school student to book their free ticket!
One of the biggest contributions we make to the arts in Queensland is our Youth and Education program. You have heard me rave about how amazing The Scene Project is and how we visit all the regions of Queensland engaging with young people as creators of theatre, not just receivers. Well, in all the beautiful chaos of the last term we had the most wonderful function at Government House. Her Excellency the Honourable Dr Jeanette Young AC PSM, Governor of Queensland, who is also the Queensland Theatre Patron, hosted an event to celebrate the work of drama teachers in our schools. Teachers from around the state came together with young artists and donors to celebrate the impact access to arts in education can have on everyone’s lives. It was a beautiful afternoon and I want to thank all the schools who made it possible for their teachers to come and join us for the event.
I’ll see you at QPAC for Vietgone!
For 53 years, Queensland Theatre has been hosting Theatre Residency Week. About 100 high school students from around the state come together for a week of creating, experimenting, and learning the craft of theatre here in Brisbane. It is an energy volcano that has changed many lives and definitely inspires all of us every year. Our Arts Minister was once a student at Theatre Residency Week, and so was past Artistic Director Wesley Enoch and our current Executive Director Criena Gehrke… often TRW is the first step on a pathway into a life in the arts, mostly it’s about great friendships formed and the courage to explore. TRW23 is wrapping up tonight and I just wanted to thank all the families and teachers who have made it possible for this years’ cohort to be here. We will be sending them all back to you exhausted but filled with ideas and the confidence to make them happen!
While Undercover Artist Festival hasn’t been going on for quite as long as Theatre Residency Week, it is becoming a beloved institution here at Queensland Theatre. We are proud to host Undercover which sits inside Brisbane Festival every other year. The festival within the festival features artists with disabilities presenting theatre, dance, music, cabaret, installation art, stand-up comedy, workshops, and forums. The final day is tomorrow and there are still tickets available for great shows.
Make sure you plan how you are coming to the theatre on Saturday night because the Bronco’s game over at Suncorp means there will be very little parking! Go Broncos!
Make sure you also head to Victoria Park on Saturday afternoon before the game for 10,000 Kazoos which may well be the best finish to a Brisbane Festival ever. Congratulations to Louise, Charlie and the whole team at Brisbane Festival for filling our city with so many great experiences. You guys make September great!
But yes, that does mean we are two weeks away from launching our 2024 Season! Cue the confetti canons! Enjoy the beautiful weather, enjoy your garden, enjoy the Spring veggies! Get ready for The Appleton Ladies’ Potato Race! Get ready for Vietgone! Get ready for Summer!
We may be launching our 2024 season on October 8 and we may have an awesome new pile of theatre experiences on next year's horizon but there is still so much to enjoy in 2023, and not that many weeks left in the year to do all the enjoying! Hannah Belanszky’s gentle, awkward and quietly devastating play don’t ask what the bird look like finishes this weekend having given audiences a brave vision of ordinary tragedy. Thank you to Perth actor Shakira Clanton for gifting the play and the Company with her unique gift for comedy — travel safe lovely lady! And we celebrate the warmth, humanity and talent of Queensland artists Michael Tuahine and Matilda Brown — we are so lucky to have you on your home stage. What a show!
Coming into the building next is a joyful comedy about women being paid equally… The Appleton Ladies’ Potato Race! Hot on the heels of the Matildas we have another great group of women playing at the top of their game in Melanie Tait’s play about homecoming! Just when we thought the playing field was getting closer to level in real life, the AFL announced on 20th August that they would award the same amount of prize money for their men's and women's teams. Here is the catch... for the men it is split over four teams, for the women it is split between eight teams. Turns out we have a way to go still. But in this play, we will do it with a bucket of laughs and some great 80s tunes. Born and bred on the Gold Coast, director Priscilla Jackman is having a bit of a homecoming herself and it is great to have her in the building again.
Coming up fast on the inside lane is our spectacular finish to the year, Ngoc Phan and Daniel Evans' co-direction of Vietgone!!! Construction is starting on the spectacular set as we gear up to finish our year in QPAC — cue the glitter cannons. Reaching their own finish line is our team behind The Scene Project. Yesterday they arrived home after traveling around the state for 12 weeks to deliver the project to over 110 schools. Thank you to all the great teachers who got their students to participate in creating their new Australian plays! This project travelled to every region of Queensland, and once again proved that our young people are great creators of theatre. The future is bright when we put the tools in their hands. Thank you for all the theatre you made!
Spring is in the air — that lovely warm thread that signals time to pack away the jumpers and blankets. Brisbane Festival is humming along — I really enjoyed Tae Tae in the Land of Yaaas by Shake and Stir, but there is so much to choose from this year there really is something for everyone! And once the Festival is done there is Night Feast over at Powerhouse to look forward to…. and then we are essentially at Christmas… at which point can I suggest a 2024 Season Subscription might make a perfect gift for all the family….
See you in the foyer soon!
There was so much love in the theatre last night! Magnificent acting, beautiful writing, a gorgeous audience, a standing ovation, and a world of extraordinary stories shared in the foyer afterwards. A great night in the theatre!
This is a play for everyone who has fallen in love, everyone who hates ironing but does it anyway, everyone who loves their Mum, everyone who has gone hiking in New Mexico, everyone who has ever felt lonely, or grieved or fought with a family member, anyone who is a great friend, anyone who needs a friend, or needs to be reminded that our greatest strength is community. This is a play about the endangered art of listening to and really hearing the people around us. We all need this play right now.
So come to the Bille Brown Theatre and see some theatre magic. Bring a friend. Bring something warm to wear, so that when you stay to have a drink and a talk after the show under the beautiful tree in the courtyard you won’t get chilly!
And also, if you haven’t watched the new episode of BLUEY called Cricket, you must. It is one of the great pieces of television. Great storytelling brings us all together and that’s what the Bluey team have done this week and what I hope you will find onstage with us at Queensland Theatre
This Saturday is the final performance of Nathan Maynard’s great Australian tragedy At What Cost? directed by Queensland Theatre’s Associate Artist Isaac Drandic.
Fans of Luke Carroll, who have loved watching him on the Queensland Theatre stage in Mother Courage, Black Diggers and Black Is the New White have been thrilled with the power of his performance. But the whole ensemble is magic together and as they take this incredible story of identity down to Adelaide and then home to Tasmania, we wish them all the best of luck and thank them all for their courage and talent and generosity of spirit.
Thanks must also go again to that other great storytelling team of Jimi Bani and Jason Klarwein. Queensland Theatre and Cairns Indigenous Art Fair were awarded the Queensland Reconciliation Award 2023 for Partnership by the Queensland Government for its premiere season of OTHELLO in Cairns in November 2021. Receiving the award from Premier Palaszczuk and Minister Enoch was a real joy and we hope to build on this relationship with CIAF to create more work with First Nations artists from Northern Queensland in years to come.
Tiny Beautiful Things makes its way onto the stage next week - can you believe we are there already!! Our Teaching Artists are spread all over the state working with teachers and students on The Scene Project which this year is Steve Pirie’s play A Thousand Points From Zero. Applications are open for Theatre Residency Week Brisbane. Applications are closed for the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award 2025. Season 2024 is coming together. And we are about to reach out to you all for our Annual Appeal which this year will be dedicated to supporting our extraordinary Teaching Artist Program.
Eeeek! I hope your weeks are full but not frantic and that you are enjoying this beautiful winter. I look forward to seeing you in the foyer and talking about all the plays!!
Letter from Isaac Drandic. Associate Artist (Cairns) and Director At What Cost?
It is every human’s desire, in fact need, to belong. We as the First People of Australia have always had a deep connection to country, community and kin. We’ve always belonged. Who would we be if we didn’t? Belonging makes you feel safe and protected. It feels like you are part of everything, and everything is part of you. It feels like a warm hug, a warm eternal hug. It’s a special feeling.
At What Cost? is the third collaboration between Nathan Maynard and I and it’s a real pleasure to be directing another one of his plays. I always take my responsibility as the lead realiser of a play seriously as a lot of the stories I’ve had the privilege of directing are very personal to the playwrights who pen them. This is no different. This is a particularly timely play that explores and attempts to address a significant and ongoing problem in the political, cultural and social spheres in Australia. Identity and claiming to be Aboriginal or in the case of At What Cost?, palawa, when you’re not, is at the centre of the unfolding drama in this play. I don’t want to get into the politics of Tasmania and the palawa so much because it is not my place to and my job as a theatremaker is not necessarily to talk just about politics but to explore the human condition within the political landscape.
There are well-known and documented problems that exist in Aboriginal communities across Australia. We are a community of people who have experienced a similar history. The hardships Aboriginal people face as a result of colonisation have bonded and united us no matter where we come from. Against the colonisers intention to dislocate, disperse and destroy, colonisation has created the biggest and most cohesive community in the world. Haha! I can go to the other side of this vast continent, and someone will greet me “hey brother” and I’ll reply “hey bro” or “hey sista” even though we’re not related but we are connected because of our shared experiences as The First People. When I look into the eye of another Aboriginal person who has lived as an Aboriginal person, I can instantly recognise them and they me. There’s a knowing in their eyes, a texture to their voice, a smile that only exists because of the endured pain behind it and we know we belong to a community. A community who has experienced the greatest of hardship on our own land and survived. A community who continues to not just survive but thrive in the face of adversity on our own land. We continue to build our connection to claim back and deepen our sense of belonging with every act of resistance. Victory of land rights, or the return of a sacred shield, or the repatriation of one of our ancestors from a museum across the world. We are building and strengthening our connection to country and to each other every day but boy oh boy it is hard work when today we are still fighting colonisation. The fight to keep our cultures alive and strong is very real and very urgent. First Nations people, remember you’re belonging. You are part of the largest community in the world and the fight is not over. Protect your culture. Protect your country. Protect our future.
“If you look after country, country will look after you” It feels like a warm eternal hug
We are saying goodbye to the beautiful cast of As You Like It and welcoming Associate Artist, Isaac Drandic’s production of At What Cost?. As the echoes of Shakespeare’s ‘Hey nonny’ fade we will switch gears to the force of Nathan Maynard’s, written for right now, epic tragedy led, by the extraordinary Luke Carroll (Black is the New White) in a career defining performance. When we bring in a show from another company it’s because we feel like it must be seen up here in Queensland, that there is a truly national conversation inside it that we must be a part of — that there are performances inside it that cannot be better if we did it ourselves.
There is a little bit of magic inside At What Cost? — the collaboration between Isaac Drandic and Nathan Maynard is one of the most significant creative partnerships in the country today. Isaac is our Associate in Cairns, and so Brisbane doesn’t often get to see his work, but his influence on the Company is profound. Directorialy he crafts performance for the stage that is some of the most alive work I have seen in a generation. If you haven’t got your tickets yet you must must must not miss this! Can you tell I’m excited?
The year is positively fanging along! The Brisbane Comedy Festival over at Brisbane Powerhouse is filling the nights with the laughter of many — if you like a good story check out Rob Carlton’s show this weekend or head over to La Boite for Anchuli Felicia King’s play The Poison of Polygamy. Our teaching artists are out on the road with The Scene Project at schools around the state. Our Young Artist Ensembles are going full tilt and next week I start rehearsals for Tiny Beautiful Things.
I hope you are enjoying the cool autumn air — see you in the courtyard soon!
One thing you can be sure of with live theatre, it’s never dull. Audiences for As You Like It had a special treat last night. With one of our actors injuring a foot, director Damien Ryan stepped in to cover their roles… seamlessly! Knowing the whole First Folio by heart helps of course (he is outrageously smart that way), but Shakespeare’s plays have always asked for great ensemble performance, and we are definitely back in the world of trying to make sure the show goes on! The spirit of theatre is getting stronger and stronger and seeing a team of great actors come together to solve the problem of the day and make sure they deliver the best show possible to the audience is wonderful.
Wonderful too is the conversation I am having with all the audience members who are travelling again and seeing shows in other places. I really appreciate your tips about what to see in other cities and what shows you would like to see brought to the Queensland stage. To the people who told me I must see Joanna Murray Smith’s Julia, you were absolutely right! It is a great piece of work! Congratulations, to Joanna and the team at Sydney Theatre Company for a really significant piece of theatre about our political history.
Finally, finally, finally we are back in the world where touring and co-productions with other companies are possible! Hurrah! And yes, again for everyone who is asking, we are trying to tour Drizzle Boy!!! Thank you to all the Teaching Artists who travelled far and wide. But that has been in partnership with some very determined teachers and schools who have made sure their students have had access to The Scene Project despite all the obstacles.
Theatre Residency Week in Townsville was a huge success this month (big thanks to Theatre iNQ!) and last week we had sixteen young people from around the state join us for our Student Pathways Program which introduces them to the inner workings of their State Theatre. Smart, creative, passionate and inventive, I am sure one of them will be running the Company in the not-too-distant future. I know we run the program to inspire the students, but honestly, they inspired us all here at Queensland Theatre that the future of theatre is safe in their hands.
See you in the foyer!
When we were putting together the 2023 season we were looking for stories to lift us up and give us a bit of hope! Four weddings, songs, goats and a whole lot of disguises offered the possibility of laughter and lightness that we could really look forward to. So, As You Like It was an almost obvious choice.
As this year is unfolding, yes, we are enjoying the fun theatre has to offer, but we are all starting to appreciate again the electricity of complex live storytelling. The richness of a theatrical experience and the way the story reaches out in the dark to keep you talking about it for weeks — that is what is thrilling us all again!
As You Like It, in the hands of this company of actors led by Damien Ryan offers not just laughter but a story that is big and challenging and full of questions that we always have and will always wrestle. How do we survive exile from all we know? Is justice even possible? How do we find our better selves? Do we believe in forgiveness?
Shakespeare’s plays are repositories of great humane conversations. The philosophy and art hived inside his sentences have reached across the planet and across time. There are people who wonder why we keep returning to his plays when there are so many new plays to share. But a state theatre company has a cultural mandate to reach back into the heritage of theatre and preserve culture as much as it must discover and invent. The breadth of our audience interest is huge; the depth of our artists’ love of our classics will never be plumbed. While these two things hold true, Shakespeare will always find a way onto the stage. When times are bright and days are easy the darker plays have their appeal. When the challenges of the world are threatening to overwhelm us works like this are flotation devices to help us catch our breath.
Over the last few weeks, the threads of Alec Steedman’s songs have been wrapping their notes around the whole company. The passion of director Damien Ryan has infused all of us with a belief that in this 17th-century play is a survival guide to anything that can be thrown at us in the 21st century. And the sounds of goats coming through the rehearsal walls have just been too silly to resist. Beauty, passion, survival, humour and the promise of a rich theatre experience… that is the kind of stuff that is bringing our theatre family back to life.
The theatre rocket that is Drizzle Boy launched into the heavens of theatre history last week! Every new play is an exciting opportunity to carve out new space in the imaginary landscape. And yes, you know I have a tendency to get overexcited around opening nights…. But this play will surprise and delight you in utterly new ways. It is fresh and unexpected and has been getting standing ovations every night of previews so if you haven’t booked a ticket hurry up!
People have been asking some questions about this production…
Why is the season so short? Well, when we were planning the 2023 Season, we were in the middle of all the 2022 problems… Covid19, flood… and we were being cautious about assuming that people would come back to the theatre. Drizzle Boy is a new play by an unknown writer — we never know how good a play can be until it is made so it is a gamble. So, we were careful — limiting the risk in the first season. Hopeful always but trying to be careful in planning the theatre rebuild.
How awesome is it to now have a play so good we know it could run for weeks?!?? A good problem to have but a problem, nevertheless. We have added as many shows as we can (an extra 5) but even so, we will run out of tickets. Best case scenario, some other theatres around the country will want the play in their future seasons and we will be able to have a return season before it tours. And yes, I know it should tour and we will try and figure out how that can happen. Again, a great problem to have.
Why is it so good? Well, it is unlike anything we have seen before onstage here. It is a great story about courage (my favourite line is “Be scared and do it anyway”) which we all need to see. The performance by Daniel R Nixon of the title role is one for the ages — it is his debut performance here and you will look back and be able to say ‘I saw him first at Queensland Theatre’ as his star rises and rises. Daniel is supported by outstanding performances from Queensland favourites Naomi Price and Kevin Spink. And it is beautifully directed by (the now Matilda Award-winning director) Dan Evans who has maybe the biggest theatrical heart in the country.
And that is all before you get to the fact that it is a play written by an autistic playwright who is putting autism at the centre of a story in a way that is complex, authentic and completely life-affirming.
And it is the winner of the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award — a partnership that allows us to find and develop new stories that speak urgently, passionately and imaginatively to all Queenslanders.
We have tried to make this play as accessible to all audiences as we can. As a Company, we are still learning how to invite and support audience members who find crowds and extreme sensory experiences challenging. There are cues built into the design of the play that will help everyone navigate some of the extremities, there is a quiet break-out space nearby and a live stream that can be watched in another space if the live experience is ever too much for anyone.
Thank you to all the consultants and members of the public who have been offering ideas of ways we can make Queensland Theatre more welcoming and comfortable for everyone.
See you in the foyer!
I blinked and it was March! The easter eggs are starting to take up space in the supermarkets and Drizzle Boy goes into the theatre next week… it is already so popular we have had to add extra shows! Woohoo!! Many things to celebrate including the fact that I can now refer to the director of Drizzle Boy as the Matilda Award-winning Daniel Evans.
The Matilda Awards at the Powerhouse on Monday was a great gathering of theatre makers who have filled this city with ideas and emotions in the last year. Yes, we all know that ‘winning’ theatre is impossible but taking a moment to recognise the height and breadth of theatre creativity is always inspiring. The chance to publicly cheer the achievements of our very own Daniel Maddison who leads up the Technical Production team of Queensland Theatre was wonderful. Dan was given the Backstage Award which shines a light on the usually hidden work of the people who make theatre dreams a reality for artists and audiences alike. He is one of the best technical theatre minds in the country and his ability to pull a production together is second to none. At his best his work is invisible — he embodies a certain selflessness that underpins most of the theatre world. The performance you see is only the tip of a very big theatre iceberg. And he is also the nicest guy in the building. Yay, Dan! And many thanks to the Matilda's committee for bringing us all together.
Of course, the morning after the awards all the focus swings back to everything in the future and the success of the past evaporates in the face of all the new challenges. Dan Evans and Ryan Enniss went back into the last week of rehearsal for Drizzle Boy, a time when you have to make so many decisions about what to keep and what to carve away as you distil a script into a performance shape. Dan Maddison went back to the problem-solving of the next three plays that are lining up. La Boite launched their 2023 season — Congratulations Courtney! I got my invitation to The Mystery of Valkyrie at QPAC — it was cancelled last year in the mess that was Omicron and I am so happy that they have managed to bring it to the stage again — a monumental effort. I am in conversations with other Artistic Directors around the state and the country to build co-productions and tours — things that have not been possible for the last three years! So finally, it feels like we are all getting back into some sort of flow. The sweet relief of being able to plan!
I know every industry is finding their own path back to functionality — I hope your year is looking up. I had a sneak peek into the rehearsal room of Drizzle Boy yesterday and was so surprised and delighted by what I saw that I know you are going to love it. I have a feeling this one is going to genuinely sell out — so make sure you jump in soon and get your tickets.
I’ll see you in the foyer soon!
Extra! Extra! Read all about it!! Family Values has been so popular we added a week to the season so you still have a week to see it. The theatre is filled with laughter each night which is a great way to kick off the year and it gives us all great joy to see groups of people staying in the foyer afterwards with friends chatting about it with a glass of something spritzy in their hands. 2023 is off to a great start.
The rest of the building is full of enterprise! In the big rehearsal room, Dan Evans and Ryan Enniss are working on The Queensland Premier’s Drama Award-winning play Drizzle Boy. This one is next up and is filled with so many surprises your heart will burst. It is a completely different theatrical experience from David Williamson’s play but isn’t that the best thing about theatre? I hope that every time you walk into the Bille Brown Theatre to take your seats you have a completely new adventure. Ryan Enniss’s writing is fresh and clever and will offer you a look at the world through the eyes of a young man who will change your life. At the beginning of rehearsal, we all sit and listen to the first time the cast read the play out loud to each other. We haven’t been able to do that really over the last three years (risk of spreading Covid to the cast and shutting down rehearsals…) but we are able to do this again now and hearing this play for the first time was electric. The cast is perfect. You are going to love them!
Our four Young Artist Ensembles are back in the building lighting us up with their energy each afternoon after school, The Scene Project play by Steve Pirie is in development, our Fellowship Playwrights Wendy Moche and Claire Christian are settling in, the afternoon storms are back and we have turned the aircon way up in the theatre which makes it a great oasis in the night. It must be February!! We are off to a flying start. Come join the fun!
See you in the foyer,
I was standing in the empty seating bank of the Bille Brown Theatre watching the cast of Family Values doing a final run-through before their Opening Night show. It was just a speed run… they do the whole show at superspeed — all the words, no pauses, no lights, no sound, no props, and about 10% emotion. It’s a warm up. A chance to get all your acting ducks in a row before the adrenalin of a show kicks in. It’s not something that would make sense to anyone but the director… that old saying of watching sausage being made comes to mind. But there was a moment standing there when I was overwhelmed by a huge wave of gratitude for the hundreds of years of experience, training, craft and instinct that was on display before me. I counted it up and, between them, the cast has nearly 200 years of knowledge they are pouring into the play to bring it to life for you.
Later that night as the audience stood to applaud after a great show I was hit by another wave, this time of relief! Not just that the performance had gone so well, but that this group of artists has survived the catastrophe of the last three years, and that their talent and skill has not been lost. Joy surged.
A great play from one of our greatest playwrights, performed by a group of great actors using every ounce of their craft to make us laugh at ourselves, make us think deeply, make us feel vividly, and make us cherish the freedoms that we have. There could not be a better start to 2023 in the theatre.
I hope you can come and see Family Values. It looks simple and fun but it is being brought to you by truly Olympic actors: Andrea Moor, Peter Kowitz, Sepi Burgiani, Helen Cassidy, Amy Ingram, Jodi Le Vesconte and Leon Cain — don’t try this at home: it’s a job for seasoned professionals! We have just announced that the season is extending another week so you have absolutely no excuse!
See you in the foyer!
Ready! Set! Play! 2023 is here and we are off to a flying start! Coming straight off the back of an enormously successful season of First Casualty we are leaping straight into rehearsals for David Williamson’s Family Values — so that we could have it ready for you by the end of January. It was a bit of culture whiplash going so quickly from all that camouflage and black sand into the linen and magnolias of Ashgrove, but the joy of working on a David Williamson to kick the year off has injected a real buzz into the building.
The building is full to bursting with Dan Evans and Ryan Ennis gearing up for Drizzle Boy — the design is looking beautiful!! (tickets are selling fast so don’t leave it too late, seriously it’s already half sold out!) Plus, the team are also busy developing a big project for 2024 which has a lot of music and laughter coming out of Rehearsal Room 1 each day.
Christmas and swimming up on the Sunny Coast seems like a long, long time ago already, even though my toes are still tanned (must remember to put sunscreen on toes!!!) But I am already being pulled into the joy of great theatre. I had an amazing time at Slava’s Snow Show at QPAC — the virtuosity was boggling; the fun of genuine play was delightful and any time this show comes to town I will see it again! SIX was a big thrill — such tight, witty storytelling from a stage full of ten young women knocking it out of the park — how funny was Anne Boleyn’s “I read” moment?! Big or small, funny or dark, great theatre will catch you and sweep you away into ideas and energies that push you back out into the world filled with power and insights. And there is so much great theatre to look forward to this year.
Even just the idea of ‘looking forward’ to things seems a bit revolutionary — after years of not getting too excited in case it got cancelled, it feels like finally anticipation is allowed!!! Thrilling!
So welcome to 2023! I am looking forward to seeing you at the theatre!
OK so I know it’s not your typical Christmas play so I want to thank everyone who has leapt in to see First Casualty. The response from veterans of many different wars, and their families, has been overwhelming. But importantly we have had so many young people coming with a genuine interest in understanding the conflict in Afghanistan and the nature of modern soldiering — the conversations in the foyer afterwards have been so complex and optimistic that we are inspired! There is one more week left so if you haven’t made it yet make sure you do — these actors have to be seen to be believed! They are awesome. You can go see the Nutcracker after you have seen this!
Speaking of, December has turned around and slapped me in the face today. I can’t believe it is 24 days until Christmas. I am absolutely not ready and I go into rehearsal for David Williamson’s Family Values on December 19 so honestly, I won’t have time to get ready. Heads up to the family, you are all getting bespoke subscriptions to Queensland Theatre 2023. My Mum likes cutting-edge and big politics, so she is getting Drizzle Boy, At What Cost? and Vietgone, my Dad likes big heart works so he can have Tiny Beautiful Things, The Appleton Ladies Potato Race and Vietgone (so he and mum can have at least one date night!), my brother loves Shakespeare and my sister-in-law loves comedy so As You Like It will be perfect, and everyone loves David Williamson so we can all catch up then and I can make up for the fact that I rehearsed through Christmas! There isn’t really anything for my 7-year-old nephew, but that’s ok — I’m taking him to see Shake and Stir’s The Twits for his Christmas present and I have promised to have something just for him in the 2024 season. If you are looking for the perfect story present for your loved ones, have a chat with our subscription team and they can put together something extraordinary for you in time for the big day. They will be working right up to the 23rd for all the last-minute theatrical stocking fillers!
Looking out the window on a grey and rainy day it doesn’t feel like Christmas is on its way… come on summer! I hope you are all staying dry. Go the Socceroos!!!
And I’ll see you in the foyer for First Casualty next week!
In the final week of rehearsal for First Casualty, I am neck deep in all things military. Every waking moment is spent on the details that will fill up this huge play: the right shoelaces, the way an old Lee Enfield rifle sounds from 600 metres away, the ribbons on the Brigadier’s jacket, the camera a press photographer would have been using in 2011 in Afghanistan, the snacks in the ration packs, tiny moments in the script (what is the difference between a SITREP and a SPOTREP?!?!), is that the right music for the final moments, is everybody wearing kneepads, when do we talk to the ushers about what they will be seeing night after night, and yes I will make time for an interview on Remembrance Day (otherwise known in my calendar as the final day of tech…). There is magic in creating a play that has never been seen before but there are still so many questions to be asked and answers to be found. The whole building is humming with anticipation.
The real magic is in the Queensland Theatre team — they are also still working on all the other projects in the building! Associate Artist Isaac Drandic is leading a BlakDance development workshop that is working towards a performance in 2024, the Education, Youth and Regional Engagement team is ready for auditions for our Young Artists’ Ensembles in 2023 and the Young Playwrights’ Studio is heading towards public readings, alongside our Young Playwrights' Award. Belloo Creative is performing Boy, Lost down in the Diane Cilento Studio and the workshop team is starting the set build for the first show in our 2023 Season David Williamsons’ Family Values.
Thank you so much for your positive response to the 2023 Season — your subscriptions are rolling in and the ticketing team is busy finding you great seats for the next year's plays. I know it’s early but start thinking about Christmas… a subscription can be an amazing gift…. I know that is the last thing you want to think about, but we are only eight weeks away from the holiday season and you are not going to want to leave it till the last minute!! Before that happens though you have to come and see First Casualty. We should have started the year with this story but… Omicron… and now it is an unbelievably big end to the year. It is unlike any other Australian play I have made. Bring your family — it will make for huge conversations at Christmas lunch!
See you in the foyer!
It's time to have some fun! After the speed bumps of the last two years, we're putting our foot down on the pedal and heading towards that light at the end of the tunnel — a great big season of awesome plays.
We know theatre can do many things, but in times like these, we need theatre to entertain us. We all love a good laugh. Some giggles. A bucketful of chortles, a truckload of eye rolls, stacks of grins, cackles, shrieks, crack-ups, snickers and stomach cramps. When we laugh together we remember that we belong together. So, let us entertain you in 2023.
We promise you moments of wild surprise, radical hope, intriguing gentleness, bliss, joy, spiritual wonder and the warmth of being with a community of people who all love sharing great stories. There will be space travel, balloons, shepherds, ninjas, great love, cups of tea, ghosts, cowboys, samosas, mysteries, school lunches and deep friendships. We want to put many smiles on your face.
That doesn't mean it's all fluffy... there are plays in there with big ideas. But they are all written by playwrights who believe that great theatre always entertains. The plays will be created by directors who love using all their theatre magic to ensure you never want to look away. And we will fill the plays to the brim with great actors who will make your heart thrill.
We are just so happy to be working for you doing what we d best — giving you a great night out. So, bring your friends or find some when you get here, and join us for some real fun in 2023. We are definitely here to play!
Woohoo! How great is festival time? For the first time since 2019 I’ve been out every night seeing theatre, dance and music and it has been awesome! We have Othello opening tonight so you can definitely enjoy a little bit of Jimi Bani magic, but the stars are out all over the city. Amy Ingram broke my heart in Shake and Stir’s Fourteen. And it turns out I must have a particularly breakable heart right now because the next night Lisa McCune got me in Girl from the North Country with the love story she tells at the end of the show. Ugh! I just think of my face mask as a tear catcher! A completely different night awaits if you are in the mood for a big adventure… one of the most astonishing performers in Australia, Betty Grumble is on over at the Princess Theatre.
I may be a bit of a sook but it has been a glorious time and I’d like to send love out to the team at Brisbane Festival who have put this year’s feast together. Life in the city is exhilarating. Thank you.
Momentum is gathering here as well! We’ve got Othello onstage, next week Theatre Residency Week is bringing 80 young artists together from around the state for workshops, masterclasses and performances (did you know our Minister for the Arts went to Theatre Residency Week when she was in high school!!!!), First Casualty is in pre-production and the whole Company is gearing up to launch our Season 2023 on October 16. It is all systems go and it feels so good!
And it is spring! See you under the bottle tree soon!
Hi from Cairns! I am up here for The Scene Project at Bulmba-ja. It’s the end of the tour — the last performance day! The team has travelled around the state and over a hundred schools have created their own versions of Chroma Town by Suzie Miller. Right at this moment, I am watching the group from Mossman State High School rehearsing for their performance. Like all performers, they are super nervous right now! But the lights go down, the magic happens, their work is strong and really moving and the audience loves it!
Cairns State High School, Freshwater Christian College and the Young Company are also all performing this morning. Their ideas are amazing and inventive and the stories are all so different and passionate and emotional. I am blown away by them all.
On a day like this, I get to see the future of our theatre. Young people who love storytelling. Some of them will choose paths that will take them into a life in the arts, and some of them will choose different futures, but all of them have a love of language, courage to communicate and the willingness to speak in their own voice. I get incredibly inspired by them all — can you tell?
So many young people and their teachers around the state have participated in The Scene Project. Next year will be the tenth year of the program! The Education, Youth and Regional Engagement team pour all their skill and soul into it each year. On this last day of the tour, they are exhausted. The scale of their achievement is undeniable. Congratulations Emma, Laurel, Steve, Alana and Abi and to our director, cast and SM team for this year’s project — Travis, Lucy, Tom, Jeanda, Ethan and Brooke — we are all so proud of the work you are doing.
The Almighty Sometimes closes on Saturday after a stellar season. Othello previews next week, and you will have started seeing First Casualty plastered on the back of buses. That is our most visible work, but work like The Scene Project is how we are investing in the future of Australian theatre. And having a lot of fun on the way. Big love to the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation for all the support you have given to help us build The Scene Project, and to Keith and Jeannette Ince for supporting the commissioning of Suzie’s Chroma Town. There is nothing like this project in the country!
If you are a teacher and would like to get your school involved next year please get in touch with the amazing Emma Funnell. But not this weekend. She will be back home in her own bed finally, sleeping!
It’s the morning after a great Opening Night… a strange swirl of exhaustion and elation is winding its way around the office. We are all getting pies for lunch from Pie Town down on Montague Road.
I should have written this two days ago, but I got caught up in all the excitement. Last night was a wonderful night in the theatre. . Minister Enoch presented the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award 2022 – 2023 to Ryan Ennis for his play Drizzle Boy which will be onstage next year in our 2023 Season. Ryan also receives $30,000 from prize sponsor Griffith University which is a transformational moment in the life of any artist but particularly in these times. The combination of production and such a significant cash prize makes this Award the richest in the country. In the coming months, we will introduce Ryan to you all and then you will get to see why Drizzle Boy rose from a field of over 200 plays from around the country to earn its place on the Queensland Theatre stage.
But wait there’s more! Last night was also the opening of Dan Evan’s production of The Almighty Sometimes by Kendall Feaver. It was an extraordinary night of Australian storytelling. It was beautiful and funny and colourful and dark and sad and surprising and rich and gutsy and substantial and recognisable and all the stuff that great theatre should be. There are wondrous performances of a fabulous story crafted by a young writer who truly has a gift for words. The whole audience was up on its feet at the end to thank the actors for the epic night we had just seen.
Standing ovations are not common and are not predictable; we never take them for granted. It is a mysterious force that makes an audience member rise to their feet in applause. I don’t know how many times it has happened to you. I think it is slightly different for every person, so when a whole roomful of people do it at the same time it is truly surprising. I hesitate to talk about it because it may be that when you come you won’t respond in that way – sometimes there is a little bit of magic in an Opening Night that cannot be reproduced (and let’s be honest the families of the actors are kind of emotionally obliged to stand so that can start the knock-on effect of it all…) But even so…) I think that the response last night and from people who saw the previews has been so good that I am certain you will have a fantastic night in the theatre. If you haven’t got your ticket already, go online and book it now!
The sky is blue, the pies are here and hot and we have a great show onstage – life doesn’t get any better than this.
And now for a complete change of tempo! Having danced the night away with us at The Sunshine Club, come back to the Bille Brown Theatre for a beautiful play about mothers and daughters. Written by Kendall Feaver and directed by the wonderful Dan Evans, The Almighty Sometimes is a nice big juicy play filled with great characters wrestling big questions about how to let go of people, how to love our families no matter how complicated they are, how to be independent but not alone. This is the kind of play best seen up close! As the weather turns a bit warmer it is going to be simply delightful having a drink under the bottle tree at interval and catching up with your theatre friends.
Suzie Miller’s play Chroma Town is our The Scene Project play this year and we have enjoyed all the Brisbane schools who have been in the theatre these past three weeks performing their versions of the play. Suzie arrived in Brisbane for the first performances from London where her play Prima Facie is starring Jodie Comer on the West End. She was blown away by the performances of Chroma Town and is looking forward to visiting the tour as it heads up north. I’m going to drop into Rockhampton to see it there and maybe say hello to students in Cairns who are doing The Scene Project for the first time this year as well!
All your friends in Cairns will have told you that you must come and see Othello when it comes to town. The show starts rehearsals next week. Seeing it in Bulmba-ja last year was thrilling and I know the team are really looking forward to sharing with you this uniquely Queensland adaptation by Jimi Bani and Jason Klarwein.
For those of you who like stories of soldiers, you are in luck with the line-up of Othello and First Casualty. While the Shakespeare is imaginatively relocated to the Torres Strait in World War 2, First Casualty will transport us to Afghanistan and give us a window in on our soldiers’ experiences in our longest war. Delayed by Omicron, First Casualty was never supposed to sit next to Othello in the season, but the pivot became a pirouette and suddenly the Wardrobe Department is filled with army uniforms and boots through the end of the year! Thank you to all the soldiers who have contributed old uniforms – we hope we will do you proud.
I don’t know how we got so lucky to not lose even one performance of The Sunshine Club to Covid, and I am not counting any chickens, but I am hopeful that an early spring and a bit more mask wearing will get us on our way to a better end of the year than we had at the beginning!
See you in the foyer for The Almighty Sometimes!
Opening night of The Sunshine Club, Roxanne McDonald stepped through the shimmering curtain, and we travelled through time with her back 22 years to when the show originally opened in 1999. She put her hand on her heart and she spoke the first words of the show in the language of the Jagera people. The last time she was playing Aunty Faith on the Playhouse stage she was a younger woman wearing an itchy grey wig… on this night her beautiful silver hair caught the light and she invited us all back in time to Australia after World War 2, back nearly 75 years. The music swelled and we were swept into a night of song and dance, of love and hate, of laughter and tears as we all looked back on how far we have come and how far we have to go in building a country where we all dance together at The Sunshine Club.
It was a joyous night celebrating the talent of Wesley Enoch and John Rodgers. With our Prime Minister embracing the Uluru Statement of the Heart it felt like exactly the right moment to welcome this work back onto the stage filled as it is with a spirit of honesty and hope. It is also filled with so many performers who are joining Roxanne for the first time at Queensland Theatre. There are 17 people onstage including five fabulous musicians who are, obviously, the band at the Sunshine Club… described by Aunty Faith as “the deadliest band this side of the Tweed”. They will make you want to dance too!
I know with Covid still swirling around us it seems ridiculous to have a large show on the stage, and to be honest, had I known last year when I was programming that we would be dealing with the virus still to this extreme, I probably wouldn’t have programmed The Sunshine Club. But then we wouldn’t be enjoying this work now. I have to say though that without the partnership with QPAC we would not have been able to afford this work of scale in these times. And without the support of our Landmark donors who are dedicated to making the big dreams of the Company possible.
Above and beyond support for shows and dreams though, has been your support for Queensland Theatre’s recovery from the horrible flood! We have been absolutely overwhelmed by the extraordinary support for our Flood Appeal including our Giving Day. You have given a very grand total of $179, 240 to help us restore our home. Thank you for getting the Bille Brown Theatre back up on its storytelling feet! We have so many great nights in the theatre to look forward to thanks to you.
Next up in the Bille is the Bruntwood award-winning The Almighty Sometimes by Kendall Feaver. Our friends over at Queensland Ballet are opening Bespoke at their new theatre in the Thomas Dixon Centre. Lewis Treston’s An Ideal Husband is playing over at La Boite and what a pleasure it is to welcome their new Artistic Director Courtney Stewart back to Brisbane.
There is a lot going on — so stay warm and stay well so that you can enjoy it all!
One of the great things about having a musical like The Sunshine Club in the season is all the sound coming through the rehearsal room walls during the day. The building has been vibrating with John Rodgers’ music! The sounds of the tuba really inject a particular energy at three in the afternoon. I snuck into the Playhouse over at QPAC last night and saw the set for the first time… saw the actors come on stage in costume for the first time… watched as Ben Hughes bathed them all in golden light… the world of The Sunshine Club is coming to life again! Our First Preview is on Saturday and we open next Thursday. Woohoo and cross your fingers for us after washing your hands!
Saturday is also the final performance by Robyn Archer. It is an extraordinary show by one of Australia’s greatest artists. If you miss it in the Bille Brown Theatre you are going to have to get on a plane and see it on one of your trips down south in the year to come. I don’t know which is my favourite moment, the love song from Keating or the Julia Gillard misogyny speech but so many people have said it is the best musical experience they have had in a long time, and I absolutely agree. I also agree that our theatre is a beautiful venue for musical performance… watch this space…
The Almighty Sometimes starts rehearsals on Monday, Chroma Town (The Scene Project play) is in the middle of rehearsals, and we are trying to look into the 2023 crystal ball as we put together the next season. The energy in the building is electric: making work, rehearsing, crafting stories, building, cutting, sewing, painting and planning it all so we can give you a night away from the ordinary, the aggravating, the frustrating, the lumpy daytime problems… it is wonderful to be back in the swing of theatre working weeks!
So stay warm and dry, wash your hands, wear your masks, and we will too, so we can see you in the foyer soon!
JOY! It’s the word today. Why?
- For the extraordinary support shown to the company in the response to our Giving Day yesterday. Thank you to everyone who was able to contribute and to all those people who reached out with love and hope for the Company’s recovery. We raised a huge $143,856!!!!! THANK YOU!
- A beautiful closing night performance of Bernhardt/Hamlet. The final show was rich and funny and virtuosic — a testament to the craft of a group of actors who are dedicated to the idea that we need great stories in our lives. They have stayed in the profession despite the hardest of times and so we get to enjoy the way their voices and bodies can transform to make us laugh (Leon Cain watching Sarah and Lysette kiss) make us cry (Wendy Moche facing down the Divine Sarah, fighting for the future of a play) make us fall in love (Hugh Parker speaking Cyrano’s words of love to Roxanne… “my heart is a golden bell”) and make us want to fight for more opportunities for all the daughters of the world with every fibre of our being (Angie Milliken… “I was never a flower”).
- Sneaking in to the rehearsal room of The Sunshine Club and hearing the great final song. Yes I was wearing my mask, yes a mask is quite good for soaking up the tears that flowed. It is truly beautiful. But, they all assure me there are plenty of laughs to be had earlier in the show and it definitely ends with huge hope. The joy of seeing an Australian classic come back to life for a new generation!
- The start of rehearsals for Chroma Town, our Scene Project play this year!
- Blue sky!
See you in the foyer when you come to see Robyn Archer: An Australian Songbook in the world premiere season of her new show about the wild history of Australian song. It’s going to be an astonishing experience in the Bille Brown Theatre!
OK, so these are not the best of times. Our beautiful show Bernhardt/Hamlet has been hit with Covid. Right after Opening Night one of the cast members tested positive and it spread through most of the cast. Even with our fabulous understudies, Thom Larkin and Rachel Nutchey, we were unable to continue… we did have wild scenarios of doubling and I was very much looking forward to watching Leon Cain play Guildencrantz, the last-minute one-man mashup of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern… but ultimately we want to present our best work for you and with six cast members down that just wasn’t possible. Cross your fingers that we will be back onstage on Monday!!
In the meantime, Robyn Archer is furiously rehearsing her new show which will make its world premiere in the Bille Brown Theatre on 25 June. For those of you who have seen Robyn perform you know what a strong magician she is. For those of you who haven’t seen her work before I am so thrilled to introduce to you one of Australia’s great voices who blew the music world away with her talent before shows like The Voice even existed. Her landmark one-person show A Star Is Torn toured the world and played on The West End for a year – I don’t know any other Australian artist who has achieved that kind of success since! Anyone with an interest in cabaret, song, storytelling in song, ballads, and an alternative vision of how the idea of Australian song has evolved across time must come and see Robyn Archer live!
Upstairs The Sunshine Club is in full swing with rehearsals, dance calls, singing, costume fittings, set building and all things Wesley Enoch. It is a joy having this ex-Artistic Director back in the building! The Diane Cilento Studio is filled with young artists as our Senior Performance Ensemble gets ready to present The Enemy of The People directed by Heather Fairbairn. And The Scene Project production of Suzie Miller’s Chroma Town is in the hands of high school students around the state. Our regional storytelling project Scare On The Air is happening and plans are being made for so much more work… Covid willing!
So obviously these are not the worst of times either. Yes, the cancellation sucks. But we will get through it and in any case, it is amazing that the Bille Brown Theatre is functional again after all the flood damage. Thanks to everyone who is contributing to getting us back up on our feet!! Big love to Brett and Mick and the building team from the Queensland Government who pulled off a miracle in getting us ready in time for Bernhardt/Hamlet! And to you for supporting our Flood Appeal to raise the funds for these repairs (we’re nearly halfway there!).
Stay warm, drink hot things, and enjoy the blue sky!
Happy Reconciliation Week. Happy Election. Happy Re-Opening of the Bille Brown Theatre. Happy arrival of The Sunshine Club into rehearsals. Happy Opening of Bernhardt/Hamlet. Here’s to better futures for everyone and definitely here’s to a better, drier, second half of 2022!
The sky is blue, and we have a play onstage from tomorrow night. And what a glorious story it is to tell and – honestly, I can’t believe we are open so quickly. The Queensland government team have been amazing, and our staff have worked like demons to get the theatre ready in time for this Season of Bernhardt/Hamlet to go ahead as planned. Please come and celebrate with us by seeing a play that is all about the power of theatre to transform and transport us. Honestly, I didn’t think this would happen – I thought we would lose this play too. But knock on wood, we are proceeding as planned!
We have two wonderful understudies waiting in the wings – Thomas Larkin and Rachel Nutchey, heroes both. Hopefully, we won’t need them, but we have laid as many plans as possible to ensure the show goes on. It is still a pandemic world we are navigating (RATs and masks are a feature of rehearsals) but the ship is definitely sailing forward.
Thank you for voting. Looking around the world, as Ukraine fights for survival, women are once again being made to cover up in Afghanistan and American women are losing control of their bodies, we must never take for granted our freedom to vote. And as Reconciliation Week starts let’s look forward to participating in the conversations about how to make Australia a better nation for everyone. Because in so many parts of the world that conversation is a dream.
See you in our new foyer!!!!
Big love Lee,
Rehearsing Bernhardt/Hamlet is a wild ride on a steeplechase course filled with many Covid-shaped obstacles. We have had some members of the team out completely, some in on Zoom, everyone doing RATs every morning, and actor heroes leaping into the gaps and helping out as they can. There are some things that cannot be done digitally — costume fittings and scenic art do require real live hands to make the magic happen! It is great being in the rehearsal room, but it is a bit nuts!
Add to that we are racing to get the theatre ready to welcome you back after all the repairs, keeping our eyes on the rain forecast this weekend, launching our Flood Appeal, looking forward to the arrival of a few new Queensland Theatre babies, and planning the 2023 Season… you could say the slate is a bit full this week!
But full is great! Looking back over the last couple of years, the awfulness of May 2020 when we didn’t know what the future of theatre would be, and then the tension of May 2021 when the borders were closed with no sign of re-opening… this May is positively easy by comparison.
My days are filled with the challenges of the moment, but they are also filled with the gorgeousness of Shakespeare’s words from Hamlet — so many of which were invented or used for the first time in this play! Fanged, fret, pander, compulsive, unnerved, unpolluted, besmirch, self-slaughter, blastment, chop-fallen, down-gyved, implorator, mobled, pajock, and many, many more.
I am also wrapped in imagining Sarah Bernhardt rehearsing Hamlet. One of the greatest actors ever to have lived. Tilting with the idea of her each day is alternately inspiring and intimidating. She had her own 1700 seat theatre! Her dressing room had a dining room that seated 12 for her post show dinners. She toured the world performing her most famous shows. In her first performance in New York, she was given 27 curtain calls. When she toured to Australia, she came with over 250 pairs of shoes and didn’t make it to Brisbane because she became infatuated with a new lover in Sydney and so decided to stay there longer and enjoy the crazy good sex. During World War 1 she still performed for the troops even after she had a leg amputated! Seriously her Wikipedia entry is huge! Read it! Unbelievable. The stories about her are extraordinary… she is like a theatrical Elon Musk in the body of Kim Kardashian, with the audacity of Madonna, the spirit of Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia, and the political courage of a woman born way ahead of her time. Just what we need to brighten up a chilly night in Brisbane! See… so much better than the last two years!
I can’t wait to see you in the foyer!!!
We are in the rehearsal room for Bernhardt/Hamlet!! Woohoo!!! It is awesome to be back in a room with a gorgeous group of creators bringing to life the world of The Divine Sarah Bernhardt as she tackles the role of Hamlet. So, we are imagining the life of a theatre company in 19th century France… yes there is champagne, yes there are baguettes and yes, even back then it was a problem figuring out how to do the ghost of Hamlet’s father. But the rehearsal room is filled with laughter and the building is coming to life again.
Nat Ryner is down in the costume department overseeing the team of seamstresses and tailors making Simone Romaniuk’s lush designs real… I do love a bit of brocade. After a bout of Covid hitting the construction team everyone is back on deck getting ready to move the set into the theatre… which is nearly finished!!! I have to warn you though, the bar may not be fully functional in time for the beginning of the Bernhard/Hamlet season. But I figure, as long as the play is on stage, we can make do with eskies for a bit. Yes? We might have to rough it in the foyer for a while but if that’s our biggest problem we are doing OK.
High school students and teachers around the state are participating in The Scene Project which will see nearly 100 schools create versions of Suzie Miller’s new play Chroma Town. The Young Artist Ensembles are all back rehearsing in the building, our teaching artists have been training, the Youth and Education Program is in full swing — the team are absolutely unstoppable!
In four weeks’ time, we will know which party will lead us for the next three years and Bernhardt/Hamlet will be previewing onstage in the restored Bille Brown Theatre. It’s a big month! Whatever the ups and downs of Australian political campaigns, the devastation of Ukraine must make us treasure our political freedoms and work to make sure they are not eroded by fear. Whatever the weather, as long as the theatre stays dry, I’m happy. Whatever the challenges in rehearsal, as long as we keep Covid out, I’m happy. Whatever the strangeness of this year, we are getting through it!
I can’t believe it’s nearly May! It feels like three years since January. While there is nothing in our theatre at the moment there is plenty to see as the Anywhere Festival kicks off next week in Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast and Noosa. Artists will be making work in strange, surprising, and inventive spaces all over the place. If you love a bit of theatrical adventure, check it out! I hope you and your family are OK and I can’t wait to see you in our foyer really soon!
How great is Emily Bates of the Brisbane Lions?! She just won the AFLW MVP and Best and Fairest. It may be because I am getting ready for rehearsals of Bernhardt/Hamlet and so my eye is drawn to stories of women doing great things — I know it’s a long journey from Sarah Bernhardt onstage in Paris in the 19th century to Emily Bates on the field in Brisbane 2022 but they are connected — both doing the things that seemed impossible when they were little girls… both changing the futures of women who will come after them.
There will be sword fighting rather than ball kicking onstage when Angie Milliken takes the stage as The Divine Sarah, corsets rather than mouthguards. But please know that while I do love brocade, I am also a fan of sports plays!! The great Steve Le Marquand (you would have seen him here in The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll) always talked about working to make theatre as focussed as a great game of sport — for the actors and the audience. I’ve made plays about Rugby Union, League and soccer (football in my house) but none about the AFLW yet…
The work of rebuilding the theatre is frantic — we are determined to be ready in time for the First Preview of Bernhardt/Hamlet on 28 May. The pace is picking up across the building. The costume department has started work on the frocks — the aforementioned brocade is moving from bolts of fabric into beautiful waistcoats (there is a great cape!). The scenic art department is recreating the work of the Czech artist Alphonse Mucha, the artist behind Bernhardt’s theatre posters. It is a rich and wonderful world that we will be conjuring up for you.
Rehearsals start in under two weeks. Yes, I am very excited. No, I am not exactly match fit after the stops and starts of the year. But bring it on! Let the games begin!
Enjoy your Easter eggs!
Silver linings sometimes come in the shape of dinosaurs. With the theatre a construction site and everyone working from home (thank you Covid, we now know how to do that easily), I realised I could work from anywhere. So, I took the opportunity to join my partner on a job he had taking photos of the new Eromanga Natural History Museum. He picked me up at Quilpie airport and we drove west to Eromanga. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was blown away by this world-class paleontological research laboratory in the middle of the most beautiful landscape. This museum, when completed, will be the home to Australia’s biggest dinosaur — a Titanosaur nicknamed ‘Cooper’! (Australotitan Cooperensis) We were there for the opening of the visitor centre, and we met the wonderful team of people who have spent nearly 20 years working to build this museum.
Led by the extraordinary Robyn Mackenzie (whose son Sandy found the original dinosaur bone when he was a teenager and kicked this whole project off) the vision for this museum is incredibly inspiring. Brisbane architects Stephanie Donigi and Dr Stephen Long have made an oasis for discovery, research, and preservation in the harshest of environments. A home for the oldest story. Before all the human mess, there was the world of the dinosaurs on the edge of the Eromanga Sea. There is a great display explaining that, if the history/timeline of the planet is the drive from Brisbane to Eromanga, humans don’t exist until the carpark of the Museum. I think I needed a bit of that perspective to be honest.
And the sunsets… I definitely needed the sunsets! I hosted an artist’s conversation night on Zoom from the café of the museum so everyone got to enjoy the gorgeous going down of the sun behind me. And that night I got to see the Milky Way for the first time in years! The team are raising the money for the big gallery to house the skeleton of Cooper — right now the skeleton is stacked in a small room awaiting assembly (free Cooper!!!). But when the display is complete it will be a highlight of any western tour of Queensland. I feel lucky to have had a glimpse of their huge achievement and look forward to the day when the ribbon is cut on the completed museum. It will be one of our national treasures.
On the opening day, Assistant Minister for Tourism Industry Development Michael Healy cut the cake for the opening of this stage. Students from Eromanga State School all had a piece before taking a tour of the facility with all the dignitaries and builders. There was much celebration. And when the last guests left, the scientists went back to the enormous task of preserving the bones of creatures who existed before mankind was even a possibility.
Really, for all the talk about Eromanga being the furthest town from the sea, it’s really not that far. Highlights of the hop skip and jump back included a visit to the Cosmos Centre, a great steak dinner in Charleville, an encounter with a troupe of cute dachshunds at the Overlander Homestead Motel in Roma before purchasing a bottle tree for the garden, being a complete tourist at the big watermelon in Chinchilla, and dealing with a photographer driver who kept stopping the car to shoot all the silos (there are a lot). I love a road trip.
I got back in time for the Matildas Awards of course! What a great celebration of theatre managing to survive the last two years! Congratulations to everyone who was nominated. Congratulations to all the winners including Jayden Popik who won for his performance in Mouthpiece (how is that over two years ago!), and Craig Wilkinson for his Video Design in Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe adapted for the stage by Tim McGarry. Congratulations to every artist who managed to create theatre work in the last two years. Thank you to all the people who have made theatre possible in these awful times, especially our beautiful audiences. And thank you to our fabulous Arts Minister who announced that the Queensland Government will be contributing $100,000 to the Actors Benevolent Fund, a compassionate organisation that exists to support entertainment professionals through times of crisis. Obviously this organisation has never been more needed by our industry.
What a week! What a year! Stay dry if you can, stay safe, stay healthy, stay together!
See you soon,
So yes, our theatre is a mess at the moment. The floors are pulled up, the walls have been cut away, all the joinery is being ripped out and all the wiring is being tested to see what works and what doesn’t. It is horrible. But to everyone who cares so much about this Company, please know that we will be OK. The Department of Energy and Public Works has a great team of people working hard to bring it back to life, and bit by bit we will build it back to the beautiful space everyone contributed so much to create.
It is yuck, but it is not tragic. Our hearts go out to the people who have lost homes and businesses and who do not have insurance or resources to rebuild. Our theatre hearts go out to our friends at NORPA whose building sits in the middle of Lismore. And of course, this morning, waking to see the photo of the Mariupol Drama Theatre from the sky, with the word ‘children’ written in big white letters in Russian on the ground outside, followed by the story that this theatre has been bombed while it housed people needing refuge… well this makes our problems very manageable.
When I was young, theatre was a refuge for me – still is, truth be told. Stories, fiction, imagined worlds have always been safe spaces to wrestle with ideas from the real world that are very difficult. Playwrights have always offered up ways of thinking about complexities that I could not have come up with myself. When we come together for a performance, we come together to collectively examine an idea in a not real way. Then we go back out into the world and use bits of that hypothetical fictional story to help us tackle problems in our reality. Sometimes playwrights will write a sentence so good you want to write it down and use it sometime in the future – Oscar Wilde and Joanna Murray Smith are great for winning arguments stylishly. Sometimes they offer a window into a world view that we would never otherwise have access to – Meyne Wyatt’s monologue from City of Gold is now inscribed in the national imagination. Sometimes they pull the laughter out of our chest when we least expect it, binding us together in a moment of community joy that creates light in the sometimes unbearable darkness.
Yes, I am looking for a lot of laughter in the 2023 Season! And I can’t wait to offer you the ideas hived inside the plays we have planned for this year. The darker the times, the more we need our theatre. The more catastrophe surrounding us, the more our theatre is an oasis.
Our theatre is damaged but not lost. But today is a huge reminder that we must cherish it —the refuge it offers, the freedom it houses, and the intelligence and empathy it inspires. Washing gross mud off all the equipment is disgusting, but the laughter and companionship of all the people who volunteered to help last Saturday was inspiring – and how good were those brownies thanks to Mia and her mum! So, thank you to all the people who have helped so far and to all of you who will continue to help us to get back on our feet. Queensland Theatre is not a building, it is hundreds of thousands of people every year who need a building to house ideas.
And I look forward to seeing everyone back in that building as soon as it is possible!
So this hasn’t been the greatest week ever. The whole company would like to say thank you for all the offers of help to clean up the mess of the flooding in the building. Monday saw about 75cm of water through the whole first floor of our building – the theatres, backstage, the foyer, carpark and reception. A small but amazing team of people headed up by Dan Maddison managed to get most of our valuable equipment up to the second floor which was awesome. And a lot of the planning after the 2011 floods really helped to make sure the damage wasn’t as catastrophic as it was back then. But our beautiful theatres, the Bille Brown Theatre and the Diane Cilento Studio were badly affected and will take a while to be functional again.
You will recognise the process – drain the water, get the electricity back on, start getting rid of the mud (not as much as last time) and disinfecting everything in sight before getting rid of damaged stuff and rebuilding. YUK!!! But it’s not the end of the world – we have survived it before, and we will prevail again. Thank you so much for all the offers of help! We will reach out once we are back in the building, but for the moment we should all focus on helping friends and neighbours getting back into their houses.
It seems a lifetime ago that we closed Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, but that was just last Saturday that we said goodbye to that gorgeous team. What a pleasure it was to start the year with such a great piece of writing. It’s not often that a play demands attention with every line. Thank you for being so up for a big night in the theatre – especially those of you who are married, or academics or both! Secretly, one of the things I love about a two-interval show is having an ice-cream in the second interval! And QPAC confirms that a lot of you share my vice, because ice-cream sales were above average in this production. There won’t be another play this year that will be quite as full on as the Edward Albee/Margaret Harvey vision… but what a way to start.
Our next play would have been First Casualty, which thanks to Omicron is now at the end of the year. So yes, you could say this has been a rocky start to the year. But if Covid has taught us anything it is that we can adapt, and re-plan. So we are all working from home for a couple of weeks (which we are all set up to do these days) and getting on with preparation for the next play of the year which will be Hannah Belanszky’s don’t ask what the bird look like. We are finding a temporary space for our Young Artist Ensembles until we can get back into our rehearsal rooms. I am reading plays and having conversations with companies around the country about potential tours and co-productions for next year because (YAY!!!) the borders are open.
I can’t sign off with ‘see you in the foyer soon’, as usual. I will just say stay dry and stay safe, and send extra love to all the families who have been hit by floods.
It was opening night last night and you could feel the buzz of excitement in the building. The sun was shining, messages of luck and love were coming in from companies around the country, flowers and gifts for the cast were arriving, my gold sneakers were shined and ready and I had my RAT ready so that I could go backstage after the show to see the actors. The new normal! Welcome to the 2022 Season.
I can think of nothing I would rather do than jump into the great big juicy play pool of Edward Albee’s writing. Jimi Bani and Susan Prior are so full of passion, Margaret Harvey’s direction is so fierce, Ailsa Paterson’s design is so striking but the words… the words that Albee crafts into some of the most brutal sentences in the English language! You must be in the room with them to feel the force of their power. So, mask up and come and see one of the world’s great plays in action on the Playhouse, QPAC stage!
Despite all the ups and downs of the last few months, it feels like we are pushing through finally to a functional theatre again. Vaccinations, boosters, masks and RATs notwithstanding, we had an Opening Night, our Young Artist Ensembles are starting their year and we are starting to get out and see all the theatre that is happening around the city. My six-year-old nephew highly recommends Frozen even though he can’t figure out how they did the magical ice, a trip to the gorgeous Princess Theatre to see The Wider Earth must be on the list, and I am looking forward to both the wildness of 7 Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner and a little bit of Sherlock Holmes with The Mystery of the Valkyrie! What is great is the range of experience between all these different works.
What is not great is that there are no school excursions this term (COVID!!!!!!!!! AAAARGH!!!!!). All the students who would have been coming to the theatre with teachers are no longer able to!! So. Pivot! We would like to encourage students to come to the theatre themselves. Please contact us and we will organise tickets for students so that cancelled excursions don’t mean theatre is cancelled. Tell all the high school students you know!
Also, get in touch with all your friends who are healthcare workers. In appreciation of their hard work and service to keep our communities safe, particularly in this strenuous start to 2022, Queensland Theatre would like to thank them and acknowledge their tireless dedication by giving back. We extend an offer to frontline healthcare workers for complimentary tickets to see Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? If you have a night off and would like to see a play that I promise has nothing to do with COVID-19, please contact us. You care for us: we would like to take care of you for a night.
OK! That’s it! Enjoy the show!
These storms!!!! Unbelievable but so appropriate. The ‘storm’ of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is starting onstage next week in the Playhouse at QPAC. It will be a big night in the theatre! Seeing the great American plays at full tilt is always special. The big Americans – Eugene O’Neill, Thornton Wilder, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee – their language, their craft and their critique of American society is so fascinating to engage with even as we watch that empire crumble. So get your ‘big theatre’ pants on and come and thrill to the emotional rollercoaster that Edward Albee and Margaret Harvey will create for us. And a little personal theatre rule I’ll share… always take the chance to see Jimi Bani onstage – he is a homegrown national treasure.
The Covid storm continues. We have made the difficult decision to postpone First Casualty until later in the year. It is a big bold new Australian play that needs everyone in the room working at full capacity if we are going to create magic – I don’t think it would survive a rehearsal process compromised by infection and isolation. I don’t want to push through and risk giving you a play under-rehearsed or not fully formed. The story is too important in the scheme of the nation and we have a responsibility not only to artists but to you as an audience to give you the play in its best form. And no, understudies are not an option, in this case, thank you for asking – the play has five different languages, a lot of physical action, big choreography and guns. So, apologies for the disruption but I promise it will be worth the wait! To make room for First Casualty to happen in November, we've had to postpone Vietgone. But don't worry! It will be ready and waiting for you in 2023.
But the sun is making appearances in the theatre in different ways. Our Young Artists' Ensembles start next week, A Girl’s Guide to War is on at the Powerhouse, Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner will be onstage at La Boite at the end of February, Merlynn Tong’s Blue Bones is happening at Metro Arts with Playlab, and Frozen is arriving at QPAC…. lots of different types of theatre to fill our nights.
Good luck to all the families starting the school year. A reminder to everyone that the traffic is going to get a lot worse suddenly and we are definitely not traffic jam ‘fit’ so get your podcasts downloaded, your water bottles filled and your healthy snacks ready.
See you in the foyer for Virginia Woolf!
This is not how I imagined 2022. For some reason I thought things would be easier/less stressful than the last couple of years. Surprise! That naïveté seems comic to me now as we move into a year which will ask all of us to pivot-sashay-pirouette-iso-lean in-reach out-distance-boost-live with-pas de chat and somehow stay together as a community. Whatever challenges we may face in the theatre, our thanks and support goes out to all health workers. You are giving so much right now in ways that can never be repaid (definitely should be better paid), but can be acknowledged. Full disclosure, my three extraordinary sisters-in-law all trained as nurses who have worked all their lives in healthcare and my admiration for them knows no bounds. It was glorious getting to see them all at Christmas even with all the PCR/RAT stresses.
Things to look forward to:
1. Having the borders open!
2. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? onstage at the Playhouse. Albee’s writing is so great you want to write the lines down for the next yelling match you get into. Although I hope you never need to use that script in real life!
3. School going back! I know it’s going to be complicated for parents and teachers but it means our new Young Artists will be starting soon and we can’t wait to welcome them into the building.
4. A croissant from Lune bakery
5. Getting past the peak of this variant so we can all come back into the office. We were so lucky last year to be able to have so many of our shows on, to be in the office and enjoy the craziness of working together. I miss the energy of the full office working together to pull off the impossible.
I hope you have all had a break that has given you time with people you care about. I hope if you have been struck down, that your symptoms have been mild and your recovery swift. And I hope to see you in the theatre soon, masked and ready for a great story told by talented actors to sweep you away from your daily cares and let your imagination have fun.
Here we go into 2022!
As the country slowly opens up again it is wonderful to hear stories of families reuniting and all the Christmas plans. Greetings from Melbourne! I have ducked down south to see some plays as this city’s artistic life comes back into existence. Last night I sat in the new outdoor theatre at Malthouse watching a silly/sad cabaret about a ship - the S.S. Metaphor - sailing towards the Pacific Trash Vortex (which is now the size of Queensland!!!). This afternoon I’m seeing Simon Phillips’ As You Like It at MTC. I’m doing this in three layers plus a jacket and scarf because it is still quite cold and grey…. big love to you all up there hanging by the pool. I am missing the sunshine!
Everywhere I look I am reminded of how lucky we have been this year at Queensland Theatre to have enjoyed a year full of plays while other parts of the country have been hunkered down. I know there is a lot of trepidation about opening up and what it will mean to live with Covid in the foreseeable future. But that just makes me more thankful for the joys of this year.
Thank you to all the artists who made theatre with us this year - you have been such an important source of inspiration for us all. Thank you to all our audiences who braved the ups and (lock)downs, and ticket changes and QR codes and mask wearing and… well… everything. We do all this for you so thank you for loving theatre as much as we do and for bringing us back to life after last year. Thank you to all our young artists and school students who have been such a vital part of the Company this year - we know it has been a tough time to keep focused and learning but you have all been wonderful. Thank you to all the teachers - you are my personal heroes.
And speaking of personal, a huge thank you to the Queensland Theatre team. What a ride it has been this year. You have been champions. The late night/early morning/weekend brainstorms about how to solve the next mini-crisis have been made (I’m not going to say fun because that would be weird), more than bearable, because you are all such great people. I have the best job in the country because you are the best people to work with.
We are closing the office for a whole week between Christmas and New Year so everyone can have a proper rest and come back fresh in the New Year for the 2022 Season. Which is still a great gift as a Season Ticket to all sorts of people in your life…. Co-workers, friends, nieces, Uncle Bob… have a look at the plays because single tickets are now available for the first four plays and you won’t have any shipping problems!
Thank you for all the conversations in 2021. When I think back to this time last year we had no idea if any of the season would happen. I am looking forward to next year with much more hope, a pocketful of excitement, and a bucket of readiness to face all the challenges because of what we have managed to achieve this year. Thank you.
How is it December?!? The Christmas tree from Return to the Dirt is sitting smack bang in the middle of the office reminding us all of the looming festive season. But maybe because it was a prop in the show I haven’t been taking its real Christmas function seriously.
Everyone is flat out in the race to the finish line so this is a fast one. Here are the top ten things on my to-do list right now:
1. Celebrate the public reading of the 2021 Young Playwright’s Award winner Paradise Dreaming by Sandra Miller – it’s a wonderful play and well worth going to see this Monday 6 December in the Bille Brown Theatre.
2. Finish Christmas cards (who am I kidding, by the time they arrive they will be New Year cards… adjust message inside accordingly).
3. See Shock Therapy Production’s Locked In. It’s performing in the Diane Cilento Studio right now until 11 December and it is beautiful.
4. Start to think about Christmas shopping.
5. Organise subscriptions to Queensland Theatre’s 2022 Season for everyone in my family… my brother will love First Casualty, my sister-in-law will love The Sunshine Club, Mum will love Angie Milliken in Bernhardt/Hamlet and Dad will love everything! Simple, and no international shipping problems!
6. Avoid cleaning up my desk… weeks to go still!
7. Check out the new season of Bluey.
8. Congratulate the Education and Youth team for exceeding their highest number of Young Artist auditionees by over 100 applicants. The building is filled with theatre-loving young people and it’s such a perfect way to end the year.
9. Continue to work my way through the pile of scripts I’m considering for the 2023 Season.
Last Saturday night in Cairns a full house of very happy people enjoyed the magnificent performance of Jimi Bani in Othello. There was much cheering, singing and dancing — and water splashing — in what was our last performance of the year. Brisbane audiences will all get to see it on stage during Brisbane Festival next year, but it was really important to start Othello up north with the community the story belongs to. Jimi and Jason’s adaptation was a beautiful merging of Shakespeare’s story with the history of WW2 in the Torres Strait. Something to look forward to in 2022!
But we’re not done yet! Our Education and Youth team are farewelling this year’s Young Artists’ Ensembles and starting auditions for next year. Shock Therapy will be performing their beautiful intimate play Locked In downstairs in the Diane Cilento Studio. The Queensland Premier’s Drama Award finalists are being selected. Belloo Collective is doing development for a work they will be presenting in 2022. The production team are planning the build of First Casualty so it can be ready to start rehearsals in February. And the ticketing team are making sure that all of you who have bought subscriptions as Christmas gifts will have them to put under the tree. Hint… hint…
We are putting the finishing touches on the filmed version of Steve Pirie’s Return to the Dirt so anyone who couldn’t see its live season in the Bille Brown Theatre can watch this wonderful new play. Or if you really loved it you can watch it again! Thank you to RACQ for supporting this digital season so all Queenslanders can have access to the best work of Queensland Theatre. And thank you for telling us how much you want to see our digital initiatives continue. We will try. We know how important access to great Australian theatre is for everyone.
So, like everyone we are all rushing to get everything done before we all fall in a heap for the holidays. I’m pretty sure people in the office are laying bets about whether I will clear my desk before Christmas… the odds are not good.
Sadly, Return to the Dirt closes on Saturday night having brought so much joy to the Bille Brown stage. Steve Pirie’s beautiful writing is so warm and delightful that it is the perfect way to finish up the year… Deputy Stage Manager, Yanni Dubler’s star performance as a wrapped Christmas present is a must see. Thank you Toowoomba, for being the source of such a great story! If you didn’t manage to nab a ticket to be there live, tonight we are filming the performance and you will be able to watch it from the comfort of the best seat in your house from 29 November – 5 December! The thrill of being able to capture this great new Australian story for everyone around the country to see is huge. Tell your friends, go online and book a digital ticket!
But there are so many other works on offer for you to enjoy. If you want more live theatre before the end of the year, I had a great time at Shake and Stir’s Fourthcoming at QPAC last week, I am looking forward to Dan Evans’ production of Away at La Boite tomorrow night and I am heading up to Cairns to see Othello next Thursday... (squeezing in the Griffith University production of Grease before I go north). I would suggest you head down to Tassie to see Ben Winspear’s magnificent production of Genet’s The Maids (best version I have ever seen!), but I believe it is sold out. Coming to our Diane Cilento Studio in December is Shock Therapy’s work LOCKED IN, which will be a real gift. It is wonderful feeling all the theatres around the country coming back to life and the genuine optimism people have for next year thanks to the ever-increasing numbers of fully vaccinated people. Thank you for your part in making it possible to reopen our theatres. Because… life is better with theatre.
Take a look at the 2022 Season — there will be something in there that will make your heart sing.
I hope to cross paths with you in at least one of the foyers!
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.
Here we are, the fourth week of rehearsal for Return to the Dirt!
The fourth week is often the time when the play is lying in pieces on the floor of the rehearsal room, when the actors are all wrestling with the impossibility of animating the hardest moments, and when I feel like I will never be able to put it all back together again in time for opening.
Don’t get me wrong, I love this play. When I first read Return to the Dirt in the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award, I was deeply moved and quietly thrilled by the theatrical voice conjuring the story of a young man’s ‘getting of wisdom’. Reading it in 2020, in the height of the first phase of Covid, the words on the page offered warmth and perfectly ordinary hope, reminding me of all the reasons we need to see our own original stories on our stages. Australian hope is very different to American or British hope. And I knew that if we were to make it to the end of a risky 2021 Season, we would need a big bucket of Australian playwriting hope to look forward to.
And here it is, one week to go until first preview. From the streets of Toowoomba, a story to remind us that in the hardest of times, we can find strength and inspiration in the people around us, if we listen. Steve Pirie has woven a story of small-town care and love and humour from some threads in his own life, but the cloth he has created dresses the characters of every town in Australia. I didn’t grow up in Toowoomba, but I grew up with these characters. This play is a remarkable reminder of the knowledge and labour and resilience that is hived in communities around the country. This play is a love letter to hometowns. They are where we can go back to when we need to rebuild — they are a source of strength.
Steve Pirie is our contemporary Australian answer to Thornton Wilder’s very American vision of hope with which we started the year at Queensland Theatre. Thank you for being on the journey with us this year. I hope this final play of the 2021 Season offers you complex and uplifting thoughts to see the year out… It could offer some very interesting conversations to every family at Christmas!
I hope to see you in the foyer soon.
It’s open! Finally! Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe is on the stage. Tim McGarry's adaptation is bursting with life and colour and character and laughter and tears and poetry and stubbies and thongs and Eli Bell’s smile… it is a joy to finally be sharing it with Brisbane! We will never know what it would have been like to do this play last year – in a world without Covid – but I do know that this is a story we need to experience now. It is hope in a bottle. Seeing 800 people a night walk out of a theatre happy…. Well that’s why we do what we do.
Back home on the Bille Brown Theatre stage, there are a lot of happy high school students performing their versions of Matt Whittet’s We Are the Mutable each day as part of The Scene Project. Thank you to all the spectacular teachers who have worked with their students to create these performances despite the obstacles of the year. Your commitment to giving students access to the arts in their education is deeply moving, and in the long term, invaluable. Big shout out to the Youth and Education team who are leading this project around the state, and to the team of actors performing the show each day.
Believe it or not, we are gearing up for the 2022 Season Launch, we are starting rehearsals on Steve Pirie’s Return to the Dirt on Monday, and we are crossing every finger and toe that we all stay healthy so we can stay open. We are so lucky to be able to enjoy Brisbane Festival. Big love to all our theatre family and friends down south – please know that we are not taking these moments for granted. The best thing we can do with the freedom we have at the moment is to not waste a minute of it. Get out and see something in the Festival – music, dance, theatre… it doesn’t have to be Boy Swallows Universe! See Dead Puppet Society’s work Ishmael, see Weredingo from Karul Projects at Metro, enjoy Camerata’s The Conference of the Birds. Just see something LIVE on a stage while we have the chance.
Wear masks, use QR codes, wash hands, get vaccinated, and stay healthy so I can see you in a foyer!
Believe it or not… Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe adapted for the stage by Tim McGarry starts tech today! Tech is shorthand for Technical Rehearsal which is when we put the play on the set in the theatre and add all the lights and sound and video design and costume elements. It is a frantic time as everything finally comes together.
The enormous set has been standing in our workshop for a year ready to go. On Saturday they packed it in a truck and took it over to the Playhouse, QPAC where it is now reassembled. Brilliant Video Designer Craig Wilkinson finally has walls up to play with his projection creations at scale. Movement Director Nerida Mattaei is at last able to see her in intricate formations in situ. Wonderful Lighting Designer Ben Hughes is focusing lights. Nathalie Ryner and the wardrobe team are backstage doing last minute alterations to costumes and wigs (shout out to Michael Green!) while Designer Renee Mulder can finally see all her sketches walking around on the bodies of the actors as they take to the stage… LIVE! And the sounds of this universe!!! Hearing the music and effects (thanks to Composer/Sound Designer Steve Francis and Associate Sound Designer Matt Erskine) coming through the big theatre speakers rather than the little tinny ones in rehearsal…. This great big beast of a show is starting to stand up and walk.
This Monday night (Covid-willing) it will take its first steps with an audience. It’s a new play. And the magic of a new play is that we really don’t know how it is going to work until it meets its first audience. As a director, this is the best of weeks and the hardest of weeks, as you see everything you have planned come together. There is never enough time, but with Director Sam Strong at the steering wheel, you know you will get to your destination. The preview audiences next week will tell the team how to sculpt the play into its best shape. For those of you coming to previews, thank you for being on the ride with us. Know that your laughter, your breath, your surprise and your applause will feed in to the making of this extraordinary story.
And it is extraordinary. A story like this doesn’t come along very often. We have all been waiting so long for it. There have been so many obstacles thrown in its way – borders, quarantine, lockdown, masks. But the bigger story is a celebration of how it is storytelling, live storytelling, that is bringing us all back together as a community. Our arts will rebuild our communities show by show.
So, we are crossing our fingers that the theatre stays open, that there is no outbreak that shuts us down. If there is, we will figure it out. Thank you to everyone this year who has been so gracious and flexible with all the emails and phone calls to re-schedule the shows we have had to cancel. Thank you for dealing with the QR codes, thank you for wearing masks, thank you for getting vaccinated. Thank you for loving theatre as much as we do.
See you in the foyer!
Did you know that firefighting was one of the sports in the Paris Olympics of 1900? Professional and volunteer firefighters competed and won medals. I think that would be a great discipline to bring back in Brisbane ’32! Our great Aussie firefighters travel around the world assisting other nations in fighting the increasingly fierce infernos we face these days, so I think we would have a fair shot at winning gold.
I am spoiled for metaphor choice this week as we get back into the rehearsal room after the lockdown. It feels like we have successfully fought off a Covid spot fire before it turned into a huge blaze. The fact that we have to keep wearing masks everywhere seems fine to me, as long as we can get Prima Facie back onstage and Boy Swallows Universe can open Brisbane Festival. Sure, it’s a bit uncomfortable, but not as uncomfortable as being shut down or catching Covid.
We have lost some property to the conflagration… Othello won’t be performing in Cairns next week and we are sending our love up to our friends re-organising the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair — we hope to see you in November! And, of course, around the country the fire is still raging – big love to our Sydney and Melbourne theatre family.
But seriously, I feel like Brisbane deserves a gold medal for managing to lockdown and control the latest outbreak (see what I mean… too many metaphors… I am not a good writer, just an enthusiastic one!). I know we must keep being careful and follow the government restrictions but the thought of losing Boy Swallows Universe again was a bit overwhelming, so thank you Brisbane.
And thank you to all the Olympic athletes for bringing us such inspiration in these difficult times. I watch these amazing sportspeople and wonder how to catch their stories in a bottle to put them on a stage — it is so hard. We have never had ‘the great Australian swimming play’ despite the way the sport dominates our psychology. I’ve directed a rugby play once which was great fun, but it was hard to find actors who could convincingly throw a rugby ball around the stage. I have to say though, looking at the Bille Brown stage we could totally build a BMX ramp and put the story of Logan from Logan on it…. Come on playwrights, entries to the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award close next month!
Despite The Scene Project not being able to head out west last week because of the lockdown (sorry to all the schools who have done so much work!), we will soon be announcing the winner of the Queensland Theatre Young Playwright’s Award. The shortlisted plays are a great collection of stories, from the smartest and most innovative creative young writers from around Queensland. As our young sports people play for Australia, our young artists are making plays for Australia. Look out for the announcement.
Thank you for staying with us through all the ups and downs. Rebook your tickets to Prima Facie and I will see you in the foyer!
So you can’t go to Tokyo to see the Olympics, but you can come to the Bille Brown Theatre to see an Olympic-sized performance by Sheridan Harbridge in Suzie Miller’s Prima Facie. She is the only actor on the stage but you will see a whole world in her work. Or you can head up the coast to Cairns to catch Jimi Bani and Jason Klarwein’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello — they have one more week in rehearsal here before they travel to premiere their production at the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair. This week, The Scene Project has been to Rockhampton and Mackay, and next, the team travels to Charleville. And of course Boy Swallows Universe is in the middle of rehearsals…. It feels like we have our own theatre Olympics happening at Queensland Theatre at the moment!
As all the athletes keep reminding us, we are lucky to be performing at all and we send our love down south to the Triple X team who have had their season postponed again by Covid to 2022. Love too to the White Pearl cast, we hope your Sydney season happens. And to our friends at Griffin, thank you for working so hard to make sure Prima Facie made it up to Brisbane — our audiences are so happy to have the chance to see such an extraordinary piece of writing.
Thank you to everyone who is contributing to keeping our theatre open. Thank you for your patience with all the QR codes everywhere, thank you for continuing to use buckets of hand sanitiser, thank you for wearing masks in the theatre, and thank you for vaccinating. Eventually we will get back to a more relaxed theatre-going experience, but until then we are happy to be able to keep ‘playing’ for Australia… just like our athletes are.
See you in the foyer, even though it’s hard to recognise people in masks!
I am writing this late on Wednesday night following the first preview of Suzie Miller’s Prima Facie.
It’s the latest show in our COVID-bedevilled year, and we are so aware
of how lucky we are to be playing to full houses (and so thankful that
everyone is willing to wear masks in the theatre to make this possible)!
The theatre for a first preview is filled with people who like to feel the electricity of a play coming to life before an audience for the first time. They are curious people, drawn to the unknown. They are risk-takers. They are brave. It could be terrible. No one ever knows how a first preview is going to go. Lines are often forgotten, entrances missed, rhythms might be all over the place or stage machinery fails — the glue holding things together is often not quite dry. “Why would you go to a show that is not yet ready?” I hear the loyal fourth-week attendees cry. “Aaaah! To be the first. To boldly go where…” You get the drift. No one has told them yet what to think of the show. They make up their own minds. They can be the ones to pick up the phone in the morning to friends with knowledge to share. And sometimes they experience a unique alchemy of an actor landing the play for the first time. It can be truly special.
But for a director, it’s always petrifying. I am useless from about 5.30pm until the lights go down. I will often just hide in the bathroom until the last minute. I barely breathe throughout the whole show, so I end up with terrible pins and needles at the end. I frantically write notes in the dark about all the things that need to be fixed, and then spend the rest of the night trying to decipher my scrawl. I scan the faces of audience members, trying to feel if the story is reaching through the space and catching them. Years’ worth of work is tested on this night.
First preview audiences are my most feared and most favourite people. The work may not be finished yet, but you can feel whether the production will ultimately work or not. The end of the first preview is a moment of truth.
Tonight, the lights came up at the end of Prima Facie for Sheridan Harbridge to take a bow… and people started to applaud, and then stand and applaud, to thank her for what they had seen. It’s going to work —the audience told me. There is still a bit of work to do — some tightening, some relaxing, some rhythm — but when the show opens this Friday it will be built on the generous responses of that brilliant first preview audience.
I want to thank them for taking a leap of faith and seeing the first preview of this new Australian play. I need them. The theatre will always need them. I hope one of them calls you and tells you about the new play at Queensland Theatre that you must see.
I hope to see you in the foyer really soon.
OK, so lockdown. Not great. Triple X in Sydney has delayed Opening Night by a week — big love to you Glace. The wonderful White Pearl actors are on hold here in Brisbane, hoping that they can be back onstage on Friday night. Our Young Artists’ Ensembles are hoping to perform their show Metamorphoses next weekend before school goes back.
Thinking back to this time last year, we are all so much more used to the processes of cancellation and rescheduling now. No one likes it. It’s horrible for businesses. But every person we have talked to has been so calm about it all. Thank you to everyone who has been so nice to our Ticketing team on the phone. Thank you for all the supportive emails. We will get through this. Safely.
Thank you too for all the donations to our 2021 Workshop and Wardrobe Appeal, including on our first Giving Day last week. Queensland Theatre is supported by the Queensland Government, by sponsors, by ticket sales, and by generous donors who help us dream bigger each year. Thank you for helping us to build our dreams with solid materials!!
It’s been rainy for the last couple of days and from my window at home, I see the huge dark clouds moving in. I try not to read anything into it. But at the end of each day, beautifully, the sky has opened up enough to let the most gorgeous sunsets happen. And I am more than willing to take that as a message!
Even with this lockdown, things are so much better than they were at this time last year. Then, there was no vaccine and no idea of when there would be one. We didn’t know when, or even if, the theatre would be able to open up again. Now we know we will work our way towards living with Covid. It is complicated, and we will always be washing our hands a lot (really that’s a good thing anyway!), but scientists around the world have actually pulled off an enormous feat in creating vaccines! I’ve had my shots and there is an amazing relief in knowing that while it is not 100% effective, it will help keep me out of hospital. If you haven’t had yours yet, I hope you have made an appointment so that you can enjoy that same relief
I am looking forward to a night in the theatre, with no masks, when everyone can truly relax into the play and not worry. Last year that seemed an impossible hope…. Now, just my slightly optimistic vision for the 2022 Season.
Keep washing your hands and crossing your fingers, and I look forward to seeing you in the foyer for White Pearl from tomorrow night…
Thursday 17 June 2021
This week has been the start of Queensland Theatre At Home. Partnering with Australian Theatre Live, we captured a live performance of Taming of the Shrew
for you to watch at home. So now everyone around the country gets to
see the great performances we enjoy here in the Bille Brown Theatre. We
are hoping to capture two or three shows from each season for you. Over
time, this will build up a library of great recordings of Queensland
Theatre’s productions. I wish I could see some of the great shows from
the past that people talk about — and I know that if you can’t make it
to the theatre, being able to catch it later on screen can be a pretty
good consolation. Over the years I have really enjoyed NT Live
productions (much cheaper than a flight to London obviously!) but I have
always wanted to be able to share great Australian work with them,
rather than just seeing what they are producing. So here we go!! One of
the silver linings from Covid is that we have taken our first big steps
in this regular digital program. You have until Sunday to check out Shrew, and then later this year we will be capturing Steve Pirie’s Return to the Dirt and Robyn Archer’s show. Please let me know what you think of them!
I know a recording will never replace the live experience, but for people who can’t make it to the theatre it can help fill the gap. This is why we are making it available to residents of community care facilities free of charge this year. If you know someone in care who may enjoy a digital visit to the Bille Brown Theatre please get in touch with our team and we can make it happen.
Of course in the live space, we are very much alive with the new season of White Pearl opening on Saturday. A comedy about the train smash of office politics by Anchuli Felicia King, there should be plenty of heat in there to warm you up through these winter weeks.
And we are all gearing up for the arrival of the teams working on so many shows: Othello (preparing for performances as part of the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair in August), Boy Swallows Universe and The Scene Project. There is one weekend where we will have over 50 artists in the building. Keep washing your hands, get your vaccines so that you can enjoy that same relief and keep our theatres open!!
Enjoy Taming of the Shrew from the comfort of your couch and I will see you in the foyer for White Pearl!
Stay warm, Lee.
This is the last week of Taming of the Shrew. Thank you all for being such great audiences. The cast has enjoyed you all enormously!
We will miss them, but are looking forward to welcoming the cast of White Pearl — an office comedy set in Singapore! While we are not taking it for granted (big love to our friends in Melbourne enduring the current lockdown), being back in the office is not always a joy for everyone, and the intricacies of office politics in Anchuli Felicia King’s play provide close-to-the-bone comic moments we will all recognise.
Away from the office though, if you are looking for a fictional space to escape into can I recommend a collection of short stories curated by Ellen van Neerven. Titled Flock, she has gathered 19 First Nations stories from the last 25 years from around the country. I read the first short story by Tara June Winch, called Cloud Busting, standing in the bookstore and it made me smile so much I had to buy the book! I am a sucker for a good short story.
From the contemporary to the classics, a big thank you to Queensland Symphony Orchestra for their Mozart and Brahms concert on the weekend. I don’t go often, but the feeling of immersing yourself in the sound of an orchestra playing live is extraordinary! How good is live music? Seeing all the parents there with little kids made me thrilled. Babies hearing Brahms!
I guess I have the same thank you to Shakespeare, Tara June Winch, and to Brahms this week for sweeping us away from daily life for a few minutes and filling our minds, ears, eyes with ideas and beauty. Our artists help us to breathe through all the mess of daily life. Whereas I hope White Pearl will help us laugh at it!
See you at the LUMINOUS Lantern Parade on Friday.
Thank you for all your responses to Taming of the Shrew. The conversations have been passionate and thrilling. The season is nearly sold out, so if you want to see for yourself, hurry up and make sure you grab a seat. We will be filming this production as the first play in our digital series, Queensland Theatre at Home. The play will be available to stream online for one week in June, so if you liked it and want to share it with friends, you can invite them all over to your place and watch it again. Later this year we will be filming Steve Pirie’s Return to the Dirt and Robyn Archer: An Australian Songbook. People around the city, the state and the country who can’t make it to Brisbane can share in some of the magic created in the Bille Brown Theatre this year.
Speaking of Steve Pirie, he is currently in Charters Towers working with students there on The Scene Project. Every year we work with students and teachers from about a hundred schools across the state to make a new Australian play. A play is commissioned, then each school creates their own version of it. We gather local schools together in their regions to share their versions and we also share a professional version made by Queensland Theatre. It is an extraordinary project that really celebrates the talents of young people and teachers across the state. At the moment all the students are rehearsing We are the Mutable by Matthew Whittet and we have teaching artists goingout to schools to work with them. So hi Steve, we hope you are having a great time in Charters Towers!
A little piece of inspiration — the best book I read this week was Africola by Duncan Welgemoed and James Brown. It’s a cookbook. Great recipes and great writing. It’s about the food he cooks in his restaurant in Adelaide. I haven’t ever been to the restaurant, but I will now that I’ve seen his book. I’m hoping that our digital series will work a little bit like this book – that someone on the other side of the country will take a look and decide to visit Queensland Theatre.
Oh, and if you have any family from out of town who want to see Boy Swallows Universe tell them to book soon as it is selling very quickly. A great problem for us to have, but a terrible problem if you have promised your sister-in-law and her five friends who all loved the book so much….
Have a great week and stay warm!
Full tilt. I love it. Upwards of 60 artists in the building every day. Twenty in the Taming of the Shrew team, over 20 young artists each night in the Ensembles (92 each week), 18 Griffith University students in rehearsals, and all the talented new hands on deck in Wardrobe and Workshop building imaginary worlds for you. The Scene Project has begun in schools, with teaching artists now out on the road connecting with teachers and students around the state. The buzz is electric. A lot of coffee is being drunk, and not a lot of sleep is being had. Hats off to the team who got up at 4am yesterday to film a Tiger Moth plane for Shrew.... you are just going to have to come and see it to make sense of that sentence. We are getting ready for our first preview on Saturday night! Kimberley and the team are stocking up the bar and I am sure the whole Company is looking forward to cracking open a cold Newstead (one of our great sponsors!) late on Saturday night to celebrate the beginning of the season. But there is a lot to do before then.
I know it is the same for everyone — we are all in the thick of the year. I got to visit St Patrick’s College in Shorncliffe on Tuesday to present an award for the Performing Arts Student of the Year to Jackson Hughesman in Year 11. The Australian Performing Arts Teachers Association selected him for their national awards program from nominations are the country. He had time to accept it before going onstage to perform the role of Gomez in their production of The Addams Family musical. I was able to see the opening number and I was blown away by all the work, creative energy and talent up on that stage... to say nothing of the extraordinary makeup! In schools around the state, teachers are putting in so many extra hours to give their students the opportunity to come together and make shows. I just want to say thank you to all of the teachers who make theatre in schools possible. You are laying the foundations for a lifelong love of the arts for all your students. I know Term 2 is impossibly busy for you, but after no school shows last year I think we all appreciate the joy you bring a lot more. (OK my Mum is a teacher so I I have big love for teachers especially this close to Mother's Day. Speaking of, have you considered a digital ticket to Taming of the Shrew for your Mum as a last minute Mother's Day gift? She can be anywhere in Australia and enjoy a night in the Bille Brown.... yes Mum, your ticket is in your inbox! Happy Mother's Day.)
So a big shout out to everyone getting a show onstage this week! Stay safe, keep washing your hands, you can catch up on sleep when the show closes, and I hope to see you in the foyer!
So NASA flew a baby helicopter called Ingenuity on Mars! People are still managing to work and create and invent despite the pandemic obstacles. As the world continues to focus on the challenges of re-opening, we are in the middle of rehearsing Taming of the Shrew. The feeling in the room is delightful… the thrill of working with a big and talented cast to bring a classic play to life. There is some connection I am reaching for between the feeling of flying a helicopter on Mars and the magic of animating Shakespeare’s words centuries later — the ancient and the future all colliding in my head this week. Trust me, this play is going to be awesome!
Queensland Theatre is humming with energy. The workshop is full with the Shrew build, the costume department is all hands on deck, single tickets to Boy Swallows Universe are going on sale to the general public next week, Play Club is reaching new audiences around the state and around the world, the Young Artist’s Ensembles are buzzing. Our Artistic Associates are all immersed in different projects: Isaac Drandic is working away up in Cairns on new stories and new plays, Dan Evans is having dog auditions downstairs, Steve Pirie is cooking up plans for The Scene Project to go around the state, and Renee Mulder has been overseeing the launch of the Boy Swallows Universe campaign. And of course, we are reading plays, plays, plays!
Taming of the Shrew is rehearsing downstairs in the Diane Cilento Studio which last year was renovated so that it can be a functional, small blackbox theatre. It has lights and a sound system and seats 80 people. It is the home for our work with young artists and it will also be a new space for small shows… even more intimate than the Bille Brown Theatre. It has been wonderful hearing all your feedback about how much you are enjoying watching plays on the Bille Brown stage. It is brilliant to be so close to the actors, isn’t it? Of course, I love a big play on a big stage as much as you do and honestly I can’t wait to be at QPAC with Boy Swallows Universe — but I love that the Bille Brown is proving to be a terrific theatre for the kind of stories where you really want to be right in the room with the action. And the new Diane Cilento Studio will be the perfect container for those little jewels of plays that work best in miniature.
Thank you again to all the people who supported the creation of these new spaces. We are dedicated and thrilled to be making great shows to fill these special spaces.
See you in the foyer soon!
Thursday 8 April 2021
So it has been a full on couple of weeks since I last wrote to you! If you were one of the people who missed out on the final week of Triple X because of the shutdown I am so sorry. The beautiful cast did not get to have their closing night goodbye, but they did want to thank Brisbane for being such a great audience for this play. I have no doubt Triple X will go on to have a great season in Sydney later this year at STC and that its future is bright. Glace Chase’s play has already been nominated for a number of awards nationally and internationally, but the first audience for a new work is special. Brisbane gave this play its first home, its first laughs, its first assurance that this is a story that matters, and now we get to send it out to the rest of the world. I hope you got to see it — are you part of the club that will never look at avocado oil the same way again?
The Covid times continue, and we are very grateful that we can keep working and that the lockdown ended and we could begin rehearsals for Taming of the Shrew. We have a great big bunch of beautiful actors in the building rehearsing safely (much hand sanitiser!). The set is being built, there are costumes galore, not nearly enough days in the week or hours in the day, but a bucket of happiness that we get to make a new production. And as audiences around the country are getting back to seeing great shows — Come From Away, Hamilton — I think we can all start to see the light at the end of what has been a very dark tunnel.
I hope your house is dry, that you didn’t eat too much chocolate and that you have booked your tickets to Taming of the Shrew — it’s going to be a corker!
Well today the sky is blue and hopefully water is starting to go down and people will be able to go back to their homes. My house flooded last year and it was horrible, so my heart goes out to all the people who are facing sodden wreckage and weeks of cleaning and insurance forms. Be careful, be safe and watch out for all the bugs and animals that have migrated to the high ground of your laundry cupboard. That’s a story for another time.
Luckily we stayed dry in the Bille Brown Theatre where Triple X is enjoying a great run. Thank you to all of you who have been in touch with us sharing your responses to the play. From the grandparents of young trans kids, to all the friends and allies, and to the members of the trans community who are engaging in the complexity of the story — thank you for respecting Glace’s play and for celebrating the quality of the writing. Triple X has been shortlisted for the Nick Enright Prize in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. Cross your fingers for Glace!
But this is not about ‘Yay! Isn’t the play great, aren’t we great!’ We do plays like this to generate discussion about ideas in the city and across the state. And so I want to thank, particularly, the few people who have approached us to discuss the difficulties they have had with the play. We welcome the critical dialogue and have been heartened by the capacity people have to articulate opposing arguments in respectful and considered ways. In these increasingly polarised times, we must keep talking, and listening to people. Continuing to exchange ideas and opinions is the only way to navigate out of disagreement. And if that sounds a little Pollyanna to you, it may be that I have just been so grateful for the complex responses to this play, as evidence that the theatre-going community is hungry for challenging writing that engages with today’s world. So onward!
As the theatres around the country are getting back on track and people are getting back on planes, we hope you will take the chance to visit other theatre companies on your travels. Belvoir is opening Sally Sara’s Stop Girl, Wesley Enoch is directing Appropriate at STC, and MTC has the new Joanna Murray Smith play Berlin opening in a couple of weeks. We are off and running! But you should also take a look at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre — they have a virtual membership, because like theatres everywhere outside Australia, they are a long way away from being properly open again. There is a new play they have on called Duchess! Duchess! Duchess! which sounds pretty cool — I haven’t seen it yet, but I am planning on taking a peek and I will let you know.
I know there are people outside Australia who are continue to join in our Play Club readings, so I feel a bit globally-obliged to return the favour and sign up to digital offerings from other countries — a silver lining of Covid!
Come and see Triple X before it closes next week. Enjoy Easter. You can never have too many hot cross buns… my favourites are the Baker’s Delight ones.
See you in the foyer, or at the post-Easter gym,
Did you know that Broadway producers hire ‘standing ovation consultants’ to help ensure the audience feels like standing up to applaud at the end of a show? We don’t do that here in Australia, so when it happens you know it’s the real deal.
On Opening Night of Triple X in the Bille Brown Theatre, the room stood up as one in a glorious cheering standing ovation to celebrate the arrival of a great new Australian play. There is nothing like that feeling of being there for the beginning of something special. Someone in the audience said, “I now know how they felt at the opening night of Summer of the Seventeenth Doll”.
Glace Chase has written a love story for the ages. Yes, it is the first trans love story to grace the stage of an Australian state theatre company. Yes, it’s great that it is happening first in Queensland. But most importantly, it is a great play. Elegantly written by a playwright of breathtaking talent, staged by one of the best directors of new work in the country, with performances so good they will make you weep.
This is the kind of new play that makes you have to come back to the theatre!!
When we had to shut Triple X down last year it was the worst moment in my life as an Artistic Director. Seeing it come to glorious life on Opening Night a year later, after the worst of years, counts as one of the best moments.
We are of course making this play in partnership with Sydney Theatre Company. And once the play has enjoyed a fabulous season here, it will be traveling down the coast to Sydney, giving our friends down south the chance to share it. Co-productions have been nigh on impossible with all the border closures of the last year, and are still really challenging to plan. But I am reminded that Bille Brown was a huge champion of interstate co-productions as our greatest tool for building our national theatre. In Australia we don’t need a building called The National Theatre, but we do need to share stories across the country so that we have a national imagination. After a year that has divided us so literally, more than ever we need to ensure we share our stories across borders. Stories like Triple X will help bring the country back together. Stories like Triple X will also help us to make that future country a better place for all of us to live in. Thank you Glace for writing us towards a new Australia. And a huge thank you to Suncorp, King & Wood Mallesons, Carter Newell Lawyers and Principal Partner RACQ for their continued commitment to making sure this extraordinary work reached the stage.
I will see you in the foyer!
Thank you to every audience member who embraced Our Town and made it such a successful beginning to the year. Thank you for all the letters and emails of support. Thank you for loving the beautiful cast as much as we did! What a start to 2021!
You’d think that with 16 actors leaving the building that the place would feel empty… but the cast of Triple X is back in the house! It feels like welcoming family back home. When we shut this play down last year, we left the set in place for months because we didn’t know what the plan for coming back would be. Over time it became kind of like our living room. Well now it is back in place and strangely if feels like we have come full circle. The cast are ready to go into the theatre next week, and the whole Company is thrilled to have director Paige Rattray back for a while. There is a little bit of a difference to last year. Last year we were nervous about the play — you never know whether a new play will work until it meets the audience. Essentially you decide whether it is a play that works… it is incredibly nerve-wracking. But I’m not nervous this year because I got to see two previews in 2020 and I know you are going to love it. For all its new world politics, audacious one-liners and racy title, at its heart, Triple X is an old fashioned rom-com with a heart of gold.
We may not be out of Covid times yet, but the building is definitely coming back to life. The Young Artists’ Ensembles are working every night, developments of new work are starting and conversations about possibilities in 2022 are starting. I walked past one meeting that was trying to figure out ‘which room would be best for the dogs’. I don’t know what that was about but I will find out tomorrow. It feels like the beautiful vibrant company I arrived in last year. I got to enjoy it for six weeks before everything shut down and we dismantled the year. There were moments there when we truly didn’t know when or how we would be open again. But here we are. With our fingers crossed that we remain open at 100% capacity, but with great big smiles on our faces to be making theatre again.
If you haven’t got a ticket for Triple X yet, call up a friend, make a date, get here early and sit under the tree in the courtyard, have a drink and catch up. If you really don’t think Triple X is the play for you, check out the new play at La Boite or over at Metro Arts, or see what is happening at QPAC — theatre is coming back all over this beautiful city. I’ll see you in one of the foyers!
How great are strawberry ice-cream sodas? Ask Lucy Heathcote and Jayden Popik who get to have one every night onstage in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. Not credited in the program but bringing much laughter to the stage is Anthony Standish’s chicken and Andrew Buchanan’s duck! There are little moments of complete joy in this play that are sending people out into the night with big smiles on their faces. There are fantastic performances from the many loved and talented actors bringing this classic work to life and making it feel like our town. But at the heart of this show is the must-see performance of Jimi Bani. One of this country’s greatest storytellers in one of the great theatrical roles on the planet… please don’t miss the magic he is weaving each night. You have one more week to see it, to tell your friends to see it or to see it again. And then it will vanish, leaving a trail of starry moments in our memories.
Next week the Triple X team arrives, and we will have the strangely wonderful job of bringing back the show that nearly opened last year. It was almost a year ago I stood on the Bille Brown stage and had to break the news to Glace Chase that we were shutting down the theatre and her beautiful show would not be going on. I will never forget her face in that moment. I am looking forward to a champagne with her in the foyer when she finally gets to share her play with the world. It’s a love story… exactly what we all need.
But here we are, right now, with full houses and a freedom to walk around the city that is so precious. Our Young Artist’s Ensembles have started up again and we love having their energy in the building. I know how lucky we are… I keep knocking on wood, avoiding black cats, washing my hands and thanking our government for managing to keep the virus at bay so far. The words of Thornton Wilder keep reminding me to cherish every moment, to take the time to really look at the people we love, and to enjoy every mouthful of an ice-cream soda! We should be selling them at interval.
See you in the foyer.
Tucked in a freezing cold pocket of the Southern Highlands is the little town I grew up in, Goulburn, my Grover’s Corners. Funnily enough, in the first week of rehearsal we spent a lot of time talking about where we all find our own Grover’s Corners: Ipswich, Grafton, Tewantin, Thursday Island were just a few communities we recognised through Thornton Wilder’s lens. He wasn’t writing for America — he was writing for a sense of humanity. He was writing for people who need to take a moment and recognise the importance of family, community and the familiar. He was writing for times like the one he found himself in, —1938 — when the world knew it was heading towards another global conflict, and fear, anxiety and denial drove all conversations.
So back in June last year, when we were trying to imagine what stories people could possibly want to see in a seemingly impossible 2021, my heart reached out to Thornton Wilder’s story. And gathering this beautiful group of actors together in the days after a difficult Christmas, his words started to work their magic on all of us. His scenes and sentences remind us to cherish every moment we have with those we love. This was a voice coming to us from another difficult time — proof that we have survived difficult times before and will again. This playwright had lived through a World War, the Spanish Flu pandemic and the Depression. He gathered bits of wisdom and distilled them into a play we can use over 80 years later, on the other side of the planet when we need to hear those thoughts again. I am always in awe of the power of the playwright!
We are hearing his words in our own voice — I hope you don’t mind. Sometimes we want to travel through a play and sometimes we want to find the play in us. Maybe because the geography of Goulburn is so like the geography of Grover’s Corners, I have always heard this play in Australian voices. And what a collection of voices it is. I want to thank each and every one of the actors for all the life they have poured into the making of this play. It has been such a joy being back in a rehearsal room and I feel incredibly grateful to them all for the leap of faith they have taken in making this play with me. They are our artists. They are our town. Please join me in cherishing what they have created.
Happy New Year from the Our Town rehearsal room! We started work just after Christmas and Thornton Wilder’s glorious writing has wound its way around our hearts and carried us through all the disruptions of these Covid times. The first day of rehearsal with 16 actors in the same room was a joy like no other. Every day the room is overflowing with ideas and talent and stories and leftover holiday chocolates and a huge bucket of relief to be back creating theatre for you.
We had a few days of rehearsing with masks on… lots of ‘eye acting’! Fortunately, we are allowed to do scenes now without masks and we will be able to perform without them! Keep your fingers crossed, keep your distance, keep washing your hands, and at the end of the month you will be able to come to the Bille Brown Theatre and share in the story that is weaving its way into existence out of the imaginations of this beautiful cast.
I can’t wait to share this play with you — it reaches across time and space, speaking to us from the early 20th century in America about things that will always matter to us… family, love, compassion and community. Welcome to 2021!
A strange and particular joy is rippling around the country as we welcome home so many artists who moved overseas to work. Awful circumstances have forced you to uproot yourselves yet again, but I can’t help feeling the relief and happiness of families reuniting for a time. Mums and Dads are so relieved their kids and grandkids are back safely for a while. And you can feel the relief in those who have returned.
I was talking to a composer yesterday who has come back home from New York. He and his husband cannot believe the feeling of being able to walk around outside without masks. So you can imagine what a shock to the system Christmas on the Sunshine Coast is going to be for them! There are a lot of families feeling a bit of guilt about how happy they are to get to be together. We are incredibly lucky at the moment here in Queensland.
We are lucky to be able to have the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award play onstage in the Bille Brown Theatre. We are lucky to be finishing up your Young Artists’ Ensembles Program with public performances this weekend. We are lucky to be looking forward to a whole season of stories next year. We hope you are looking forward to 2021 with more hope and that you have found some plays to tempt you away from Netflix... I’m sure you will enjoy the opportunity to get out of your yoga pants and into the theatre foyer!
We need to keep being careful I know, and keep hand washing and distancing. But we also have to grab the moments of joy with both sanitised hands and hold fast for the time that we can. The borders are open. Christmas is coming. And families are finding a window of together time that they never dreamed would be possible. Grab the joy!
We have all been on a wild ride in 2020 and 2021 promises to be challenging in ways we cannot imagine. But imagine we will. Together. Because we have all learned how much we need theatre.
We need to see great big stories that fill us with inspiration.
We need laughter and love and ideas and provocations and magic.
We need to have our artists back at work breathing life into the national imagination.
We need to talk to friends about the play we all saw last night and disagree with them about what it really meant.
We need Australian voices speaking to us about what matters to us right now.
We need voices from other lands and times showing us worlds far and past as we work to plan our futures.
We need our great actors to move us deeply.
We need to be in rooms with other people and share these experiences.
We need the buzz of a foyer.
We need dates in our calendars to look forward to.
We need our culture to come back to life.
None of us imagine it will be easy.
But we have to try.
Because we have lived a time without theatre, and I don’t know about you but I don’t want to imagine a future without it. Thank you for staying with us through this dark age.
We hope you are excited to be with us as we turn the lights back on in your theatre. 2021. Let’s go.
2021 Season Ticket Packages
My introduction to Queensland Theatre started many years ago when Wesley Enoch invited me to be on the selection panel for the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award. I was blown away by the process of this award.
The fact that the winning play receives a full production sets this award apart from any other award in the country. This partnership between the Queensland Government and Queensland Theatre to invest in Australian storytelling is as unique as it is inspiring. It is so much better than just a literary award for a work already made, it is a leap of faith that demonstrates this government’s understanding that theatre is always about looking forward.
Making new Australian plays is the most important thing we do as a theatre company, and it is the hardest. To create a new and original story on our stage adds to the bookshelf filled with Australian plays. It is a way of ensuring that the ideas and voices of our time are preserved for future generations. This award sits at the beating heart of this Company and we could not do it without government support.
In the 20 years this Queensland Premier’s Drama Award has existed, it has created the plays of Sven Swenson, Adam Grosetti, David Brown, Richard Jordan, Marcel Dorney, Maxine Mellor, Daniel Evans, Michele Lee and the playwright whose work is onstage at the Bille Brown Theatre right now, David Megarrity. As we mark 20 years of this award and the celebrate 50 Seasons of Stories at Queensland Theatre — ad despite the devastating disruption of COVID-19 in our industry and in our society — it is a real thrill to end this dark year with a new Australian play.
Wrapped around the production like a big bow is an exhibition of photographs from the last 50 years of the Company. After you have done your COVID check in, grab a glass of something and have a wander through the glorious images of theatre legends. At the end of the production we will put the exhibition on our website, so don’t worry if you can’t get here — it is an inspiring reminder of some of the great stories and great actors who are carved into the cultural memory of this great city. Enjoy!
Welcome back to theatre — to the magic of great actors in a great play happening right in front of you!
It is SOOOOOOO much better than Zoom, or Netflix, or reality TV. Living, breathing, rich language about things that matter to us right now! Honestly, the first day of rehearsal on Mouthpiece was like breathing fresh air outside for the first time after spending months in a stale cramped room.
I feel really lucky to have the chance to put this play on our stage at this time. The only reason we can is because of the extraordinary job our government has done to keep us safe. Talking to playwright Kieran Hurley, as London goes into another lockdown, has driven home how we should not take this for granted. When you come, you can sit in the audience in the gorgeous Playhouse and enjoy our freedom.
You can let his beautiful play get under your skin, the way it got under mine when I first read it. It is theatre magic for me that a Scottish playwright on the other side of the world can conjure a story that can reach across the globe in such a visceral way. It is theatre magic that brings together two great talents in Christen and Jayden — two language acrobats who will fly through the air above the structures the playwright has given to them.
I cannot thank the Queensland Government and QPAC enough for partnering with us to make this play. As I sit in the audience each night and feel everyone drinking in the experience, I feel hopeful that this dark time has taught us never to take the magic of theatre for granted. I look forward to seeing you back in 2021 at Queensland Theatre for more great stories brought to life for you by great actors.
We move into the theatre next week! We will be backstage at QPAC powering up lights and setting up dressing rooms and having tech week in readiness for our first performance of Kieran Hurley’s Mouthpiece next Saturday night. The chance to gather around the campfire in the dark and share a story — that is essentially what we get to do again. And I can’t wait.
The power of great story to move us never ceases to amaze me. Even in its shortest form. There is that legendary short story attributed to Ernest Hemingway:
“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
For years I have kept an eye on Larry Smith’s Six Word Memoir website for inspiration. This year, the stories have been a way for people around the world to share their experiences of pandemic dislocation and isolation. One of my favourites is:
“Can’t smell the campfire on Zoom.”
— Melanie Abrams
And I definitely lived this one,
“Social distancing myself from the fridge.”
— Maria Leopoldo
Our first performance of Mouthpiece will be on election night – Saturday 31 October – and then we will launch our 2021 season the following day on Sunday 1 November. Even as I write these dates, I am stunned that we are up to November.
“This is what time looks like.”
— Sylvia Sichel
As we carefully come back to the full sensory experience of theatre in Brisbane I have never been more aware of how lucky we are to have our world start to open up again because in this time:
“The world has never felt smaller.”
— Maggie Smith
Six words: so simple and so complex. Good storytelling: so powerful. There are a lot more than six words in Mouthpiece obviously. It has been a complete pleasure to put myself back into the hands of a great playwright who has shaped his thoughts into words on a page. To watch those words be absorbed into the body and minds of two great actors. And to anticipate seeing those words go out into the audience, transforming into the conversations you will have leaving the theatre and going out into the world.
I can’t wait to share these words with you.
Just near Wanaka in New Zealand is a mountain called Roy’s Peak. There’s a track up it that zig zags steeply to a ridge and a summit with spectacular views. Within the first half hour of the walk I knew I was not fit enough to be attempting it, let alone enjoying it. But turning back? Don’t be silly! I love walking. I’d done it before… I could do it again! That was last year.
This is my first week back in the rehearsal room. It feels amazing — like breathing in all that New Zealand fresh air in the first five minutes of the walk. At the end of the first day I got home exhausted. I am so not show-fit! But every part of me is thrilled to be back in that space with two great actors and a creative team making a play for you.
The whole Company is relieved to be slowly and carefully beginning the process of returning to making theatre. The set is being built, the costumes are being sourced, tickets are being sold, and soon you will be able to sit in the Playhouse enjoying Mouthpiece by Kieran Hurley. It is a big step in the direction of bringing back the cultural life of this city.
So bring on the exhaustion I say! We are so lucky in the scheme of the world to have this chance. I am not going to waste a minute of it, even if my legs are killing me, because I know the view from the summit will be amazing.
Surprise! A new show! We are joining forces with all the home companies to bring everyone back to QPAC and celebrate the arts in this shiny city. The dancers will be dancing, arias will be sung, the orchestra will thrill us, the acrobats will be breathtaking, and we will be doing a play. A beautiful, rich, clever, funny play! It’s called Mouthpiece. It’s written by the brilliant Kieran Hurley, a Scottish writer of immense talent and deep heart. It will be performed by the magnificent Christen O’Leary (small confession here — big moment of wish fulfilment getting to work with her for the first time) and the captivating Jayden Popik making his Queensland Theatre debut (he is going to blow you away). And I get to direct it!!!!!!!!!!!
OK so I’m a bit nervous — first play at QPAC and all that. But getting back into the rehearsal room and piecing together this remarkable story for you is a real thrill, in a year that has not had a lot of real thrills.
We are going to be able to perform to audiences of 50 per cent of the house size. Everyone will be spread out, there will be new rules for arriving and leaving, and tickets and drinks and bathrooms and we can’t have parties in the foyer, and there will be so much hand sanitiser. So it’s going to feel a little different but it’s still going to be LIVE THEATRE! As much as I have loved all the screen work from around the world over the last months, there is nothing like seeing real live story played out in front of us by talented actors. It does something to us as humans that I find irresistible.
I want to say a huge thanks to the Queensland Government for working so closely and rigorously with us to make this happen, and to make it happen safely. Bringing all the home companies together with a collective mission of lighting up our nights again at QPAC has been an inspiration to all of us, and we hope will be exciting for you. So don’t just come and see Mouthpiece, grab a ticket to see the awesomeness of circus, the magic of the symphony, the marvels of operatic voice, and the beautifulness of the ballet. Sit back in your seat and wonder at the talents of this city, and the magic that lives in great art. Welcome back!
Writing original stories is hard. Writing a play is nearly impossible. A lot of writers try. They have a few scenes in a drawer. They have probably dug them out in the last six months and tried to work on them in the last six months. A very small number of writers in the world manage to finish a whole play. An even smaller number go on to write a second.
Every time a new play lands on my desk I am thrilled that the playwright has managed to get the play this far. Every time I start reading a new play I am hoping to find the next great Australian play or hear a voice saying something that matters in a way I have not heard before in theatre form.
Reading the plays of young playwrights is especially exciting. Because if you can see evidence of writing talent on the page and they have had the discipline to complete the whole play, to wrestle their ideas into paper form, you start to imagine how far this capacity will take them in their lives. Because if they have managed to find their thing early, the possibilities are huge. We need our young people to be writing their ideas down so that their ideas can reach out to the wider world. We need their young voices and young perspectives to be speaking to us about the futures they will have to lead. And when they can do that with a play? Wow! It is a win for theatre! Not that it’s a competition. Except sometimes it is.
Like the Queensland Theatre Young Playwright’s Award. I would like to introduce you to the joint winners of the 2020 award. Two extraordinary young playwrights who have each created original stories which show distinctive instinct towards theatre storytelling and the craft to capture voices of the world around them in vibrant dialogue.
Milena Barraclough Nesic and Suki Wallace are two young playwrights to watch. Milena’s play is a sophisticated weave of politics and poetry as she explores the power and the fragility of young love in a violent world. The working title is A play about a play and love and war and other stuff . Suki’s work Carnies is a brutal and funny story about the extreme measures one family employs to survive the predatory banking practices exposed by the Royal Commission. Both playwrights will receive dramaturgical support from Queensland Theatre and will hear their plays read by professional actors. Look out world here they come! Not only have they written full plays, but they have done it in the hardest of times. Now if that doesn’t give you a bucket of hope for the future of theatre in this country I don’t know what will!