20
Aug
19

Queensland Theatre Season 2020 – 50 Seasons of Stories

 

Queensland Theatre launches 2020: A celebration of 50 seasons of stories

 

Queensland Theatre marks its half century by becoming the national home of new stories and staging the theatrical event of the year.

 

In front of a capacity crowd of 800, Queensland Theatre launched Season 2020, the Company’s 50th season of stage stories and the final under the artistic directorship of Sam Strong.

“Season 2020 confirms Queensland Theatre as the national home of new stories, with 50 percent of the season being world premieres,” said Strong.

“I’m proud of how we have transformed Queensland Theatre over the last four years, but I am especially proud of our championing of new stories. This is the third successive year in which at least half of our season has been brand new work,” he said.

“In the four years including 2020, we will have staged 15 world premieres, including 10 commissions reaching the stage. That’s a theatre company reflecting contemporary Australia back to itself more than ever before and more than any other. This has included established names and new plays by David Williamson, Joanna Murray Smith, Sue Smith and Melissa Bubnic. It has also included at least seven mainstage debuts, three first nations writers, two Asian-Australian writers, one Islamic-Australian writer and one transgender writer.”

 

 

“However, it wouldn’t be a Queensland Theatre season if we weren’t ambitiously growing. We are celebrating the milestone of our 50th season of stories by reflecting Queensland like never before. This includes more Queensland exclusives and the theatrical event of the year, the stage version of Trent Dalton’s smash hit novel, Boy Swallows Universe.

 

The season showcases a spectacular smorgasbord of talent from Queensland and around Australia, including: mainstage debutants like director Zoe Tuffin through to master playwright David Williamson, who is celebrating his 50th anniversary of working; actors who have become favourites at Queensland Theatre such as Christine Amor, Jimi Bani, Emily Burton, Ray Chong Nee, Jason Klarwein, Angie Milliken, Bryan Probets, and Toni Scanlan;  Australian acting royalty Nadine Garner and Rhys Muldoon; and the hottest young talent in Australia, including Josh McConville, Contessa Treffone and Sheridan Harbridge.  Joining these actors are the best directors and designers in Australia in Sam Strong, Paige Rattray, Lee Lewis, Dale Ferguson, Richard Roberts, Renee Mulder and Steve Francis.

 

 

Fittingly, the 50th anniversary year opens with adopted Queenslander David Williamson’s Emerald City which celebrates the acclaimed playwright’s 50th anniversary. The play uses the hedonistic late-1980s as a canvas to explore bigger – and ever more relevant – concerns about compromising personal ideals. Directed by Sam Strong, Emerald City sees the return of  Rhys Muldoon (House Husbands and Rake) to Queensland Theatre after the success of his turn as Isaac Newton in David Williamson’s Nearer the Gods.

From contemporary New York comes Triple X, by one of Australia’s most prolific and dynamic young writers-turned-New York local in Glace Chase. This world premiere, directed by Paige Rattray, will move audiences as well as make them laugh through its dissection of gender and sexuality in the 2020s.

 

In May, Queensland Theatre presents William Shakespeare’s most intimate tragedy,  Othello. Directed by stage powerhouse Jason Klarwein and starring Jimi Bani, this uniquely Queensland version will give the classic an evocative and effective setting in the Torres Strait during the Second World War.

 

Next up, the world premiere of the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award-winning play The Holidaysby David Megarrity, directed by Matilda Award-wining Bridget Boyle. This sensory feast will transport audiences to a quintessentially Queensland beach getaway for a touching meditation on mortality.

 

 

Posing the question, ‘what’s our responsibility to the future’ and set in the wake of a nuclear disaster, The Children is written by one of the UK’s hottest young playwrights in Lucy Kirkwood and will be directed by Zoe Tuffin.

 

Then, one of the most anticipated stage stories of the year – and an Australian coup – the world premiere stage version of Trent Dalton’s wildly successful novel Boy Swallows Universe brings Brisbane unforgettably to life under the direction of Sam Strong. Adapted for stage by Tim McGarry and presented in partnership with Brisbane Festival, the play will see the blockbuster Australian novel burst onto stage.

 

 

In October, the Griffin award-winning Prima Facie, by playwright Suzie Miller presents an urgent, gripping one woman show which mounts an irresistible call for change through its powerful story of a defense barrister who finds herself on the wrong side of the system, directed by Lee Lewis.

 

 

The Season 2020 finale is the world premiere and Queensland exclusive of Phaedrawhich satirically transplants one of drama’s great heroines to a Queensland that has seceded from the rest of Australia. From the minds of Queensland’s own Belloo Creative, written by the acclaimed Katherine Lyall-Watson and directed by Caroline Dunphy, the play sees the return of the much-loved Angie Milliken to Queensland Theatre’s stage.

As the company celebrates 50 seasons of stories, it is especially proud of the success of the immediate past. Under the Artistic Direction of Sam Strong and the executive leadership of Amanda Jolly, Queensland Theatre has made concrete its vision of leading from Queensland – with key achievements including a new name, a new theatre, record audiences and growth, national industry leadership through gender parity of writers and directors for four successive years, more diverse voices, more new stories and world premieres, and the next generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stories. These successes and so much more will be celebrated throughout Season 2020.

Sam Strong paid tribute to Queensland Theatre and audiences as he bids farewell.

“I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to lead Queensland Theatre and am so proud of what we have achieved together over the last four years. I’ve loved living, working and sitting in lots of theatres in Queensland, including the one we built together. Thank you for so generously embracing me and the Company’s work. Brisbane really does have the warmest audiences in Australia.  I can’t wait to return to those audiences as a punter and as a director in 2020.”

 

 

10
Aug
19

L’Appartement

 

L’Appartement

Queensland Theatre

QPAC Cremorne

August 3 – 31 2019

 

Review by Shannon John Miller

 

 

On stage of the Cremorne theatre, we see an expansive set courtesy of designer, Dale Ferguson—the cross section of an interior modern apartment; a white, ultra-modern nexus dynamically flattened and yet bubbling with little staircases, mezzanines, doorways to other rooms, impractical geometric shelving and uncomfortable looking modern furniture. It is impressive but sterile and ironically uninhabitable.

 

Middle-income, generation-X, Brisbane couple, Rooster (Andrew Buchanan) and Meg (Liz Buchanan) have treated themselves, after 12 years of being together, to a well-deserved, dream holiday in Paris; a week away from the daily grind of their lives and their three-year-old twin daughters. They’re hoping to reconnect with each other in the City of Lights— the City of Love; Paris.

 

 

 

Rooster is a physical education teacher. He’s funny, playful and earthy. His wife, Meg is a retail assistant for a business that sells Chinese imitations of contemporary furniture. She’s also familiar with a relatable sense of meekish modesty. They’ve arranged to stay at a classy Airbnb in the heart of Paris, and we’re privy to the handover by the hosts; upwardly mobile young French couple, Serge (Pacharo Mzembe) and Lea (Melanie Zanetti).

 

Serge is dashing, fit and his work involves curing cancer. Lea, his partner is angelic, sophisticated and happens to be a photographer for National Geographic. Both are attractive, intellectual, well-connected, up-and-coming professionals with an impressive CV of humanitarian and environmental sensitives. They’re millennials living an almost impossible life of affluence and social mobility. Of what their minimalist tastes allow, nothing in their apartment is by chance, everything is carefully selected for its excellence and distinction, including a bottle of valuable wine sourced from a friend’s boutique vineyard which they gift to the Aussies.

 

 

Over a couple of drinks, Lea and Serge reveal that they’re going to help build a well for a third world village. They also warn the couple that they’re not to smoke in the apartment and that a package will be delivered while they’re away. They leave, and Rooster and Meg are finally left to enjoy their holiday. However, in the aftermath of the interaction, Meg has been altered, and is sent spinning off in a direction of self-reflective remorse. She’s critical of the French couple’s conspicuous pretentions and sense of style; intimidated by their overachieving and social status.

 

These petty jealousies however lead to inroads of much darker dissatisfactions as the couple bicker over unresolved conflicts and unrealised, forgotten ambitions. Meg’s unfulfilled, working in an unskilled field, out of alignment with her true purpose. She’s been a devoted wife and mother. One of their daughters has a learning impairment. In comparison, everything seems to have fallen into place for French Lea, a childless millennial who’s followed her dreams and is living her best life.

 

 

Meg feels as though she’s compromised and directs this blame at Rooster, chastising him for having too simpler goals; for not being more assertive, further provoking unprocessed issues. Their relaxing holiday soon becomes a miserable exploration of the couples’ loss of self-actualisation.

 

As Rooster attempts to save the mood, Meg seems hellbent on sabotaging the trip. And perhaps they’ve always argued this way, or perhaps it’s because they’ve momentarily stepped outside the 12-year vacuum of their domestic ignorance to discover in Serge and Lea, parallel versions of what could have been. Nevertheless, a mysterious parcel arrives, and when the French couple return a laughable war of opposing ideologies ensues.

 

 

Director and playwright Joanna Murray-Smith has masterfully built a world, which, while it is an ostensible comedy of errors where two opposing forces come together, has much darker satirical undercurrents.

 

It’s about the language of privilege and the middle-classes arming themselves with moral outrage; the new language of distinction and social mobility. It’s about the west’s pre-occupation with ethnicity, of the casual racism that punctuates our day-to-day interactions, the façade of authenticity in a world of good intentions, fake news and fake furniture, and of misguided understandings of political correctness and indigeneity. Aptly, the program notes say that L’Appartement is a “comedy that asks if good intentions are the ultimate crime of the middle class”.

 

We see ourselves in every character as the players ride their natural instincts so expertly and as playwright Murray-Smith holds a mirror up to the audience. Characters draw false equivalencies, moralise naïvely on misappropriated indigenous culture, matters of taste, and other currencies of the middle-class. While both couples are just as equally privileged, they fight over the scraps of political correctness, attempting to out-do each other in the arena of virtue signalling.

 

L’Appartement is a marvellously devilish work, laugh-out-loud funny, wry, cleverly serious, and successfully epitomises the pitfalls of social politics in modern society.

10
Aug
19

Lady Beatle

Lady Beatle

La Boite & Little Red Company

La Boite Roundhouse

August 7 – 10 2019

 

Reviewed by Shannon John Miller

 

 

Like most kids, I would first come to know The Beatle’s music through my dad. With his collection of 45’s, which he still has, we would listen to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Yellow Submarine and Penny Lane amongst others from the crackling turntable. I remember watching that needle wondrously glide and float upon the grooves of the record as Dad would dance along and play air drums, lost in a broken rock and roll dream, perhaps. And now, years on, admittedly my favourite genre of music is orchestrated versions of pop songs performed by some of the most extravagant cover bands like the London Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops Orchestra playing Hey Jude and Eleanor Rigby. We all have our personal stories of how we know The Beatles. They’re a rite of passage and like Bach, Mozart or Shakespeare, seminal in their modern pop music inventions.

 

Always keen to hear how artists interpret The Beatle’s canon of pop, vocalist Naomi Price, reprises her titular role as, Lady Beatle with co-creator Adam Brunes, Mik Easterman on keys, Andrew Johnson on bass, Michael Manikus on drums and Jason McGregor on guitar. Described as a “kaleidoscopic journey through The Beatles’ most monumental hits this performance marks the beginning of a three-month tour across the country.

 

 

The band assembles on retro podiums. The light is scarce and broody but for a contemporary chandelier of crystal shards cascading with sparkles just above Price as she takes the stage in an iconic straight jet-black wig and military issue marching band uniform.  While we’re in the stalls, there’s cabaret seating in the “mosh pit” of La Boite’s theatre and the audience, clinking with wine glasses and bottles, are immediately receptive to the energy Price’s band are promising. 

 

Kicking out a punchy overture of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club, Price and her band will continue to wow audiences throughout the night with beat-driven reimaginings of Hey Jude, Yellow Submarine and Come Together with particular noteworthy performances of Eleanor Rigby, Don’t Let Me Down and Here Comes the Sun. (The latter for which Price received a standing ovation part way through the show.) She not only showcases the full breadth of her vocal dynamic but also that she has the desperate yearnings and poetry within her to take us on the emotional journey. One of the difficulties with such a show is to elevate the material higher than just mere covers; to be more than just a juke box monologue. And she does just that. She brings something new and old; a courageous new rock music language both timeless and innovative.

 

Price is bold, electric, she twists and shouts, she uses her body, she kicks and turns, she uses every artifice and physicality at her disposal, she lets loose, then turns inward; tiny and small. She approaches the audience like we are her friends, like we’ve come over to her house after school and we’re going through her vinyl collection together as she shares her favourite Beatles’ songs.

 

 

Between pieces, Price stops to reflect in Liverpudlian on more obscure notions. Her stories are presented as if she is omnipotent, she is everyone, she is no one, impossibly moving forward and backwards in time, explaining in an almost fractured poetry a series of vignettes about her grandmother who taught her about The Beatles, about Paul McCartney, Ringo, John Lennon, George Harrison and Brian Epstein’s tragedy. Price mixes up the fantastical and the factual sometimes coming from the point of view of a tortured fangirl wanting to be the fifth member of The Beatles. But at times the intention of the narrative is lost, juxtaposed between a seemingly innocuous tribute and the melancholy pages of an angsty teenage diary.  With themes of existential crises, insignificance, and the burden of living in the shadows of unrealised dreams, Lady Beatle is part memoir, part fiction, part documentary. As a narrator, Price is unreliable as she weaves stories together some seen naively through a kaleidoscope of modern sensibilities. But we come to understand her stories may not necessarily be a cohesive arch; the vignettes are undeveloped and at times leave unappealing malaise and unanswered questions with the audience to reconcile.

 

 

Nevertheless, this is a fun and unabashedly toe-tapping show with innovative lighting design by Jason Glenwright, sound design by Jamie Taylor and costuming by Leigh Buchanan. A tightly executed operation, which serves to honour the music of a most world-beloved band. In Danny Boyle’s recently released film, Yesterday in which a struggling musician wakes to discover that he is the only person who remembers The Beatles’ music, I felt similarly reminded of how Lady Beatle taps into our own personal relationship with the music of The Beatles; a relationship which only we can know, and like the film Yesterday, is secretly hidden and unknown to the rest of the world. 

 

Lady Beatle tours until November 9. Tour dates here.

 

 

19
Jun
19

City of Gold: an urgent play for our time

City of Gold

 

Coming to Queensland Theatre’s Bille Brown Theatre

 

Saturday 29 June – Saturday 20 July 2019

 

 

In a powerful and confronting theatre event that is sure to linger in the minds of audiences long after the (figurative) curtain closes, Queensland Theatre presents the world premiere of City of Gold, written by, and starring, the immensely charismatic  Meyne Wyatt  (The Sapphires, Strangerland, Redfern Now, Neighbours, Black Comedy).

 

With first previews opening from June 29 and the season continuing until July 20, City of Gold is a raw and honest look at the challenges facing some young Indigenous Australians working to carve out a future in modern society whilst striving to maintain their connection to community and Country. It’s a stage story everyone needs to experience.

 

Partially inspired by his own experiences Wyatt has written a wryly funny and sometimes brutal play that will leave audiences questioning their own preconceptions, however well-meaning, about modern Indigenous culture. It’s raw, open, honest story-telling that will resonate with audiences, alternating between shock, inspiration and deeply moving moments. This is a play for people who are interested in being at the cutting edge of the conversation about Indigenous experience in Australia today.

 

Meyne Wyatt said the story had to be told. “Over the past few years things have happened, there has been something in the air, which all came together to make me actually write this,” he said.

 

“My dad passed away in 2015 and 18 months later I found myself really disillusioned with the world, the industry and myself. The roles I was auditioning for and getting, reflected the fact I had lost my passion. At the same time in my hometown of Kalgoorlie, a young 14-year-old Aboriginal boy was killed by a hit-and-run driver, who ended up serving just 15 months. And down south, the Adam Goodes story was playing out on and off the footy field. This series of events prompted me to sit down and write City of Gold.”

 

Meyne said the story has the potential to be divisive.  “There’s absolutely controversial lines, acts and characters in City of Gold. There’s also lots of humour. The story dives into dark and deep territory, with the humour a great release valve. I want audiences to find their own spark from this story; and what they find important, is what’s important.”

 

 

 

The talented Wyatt (he’s been nominated for a Sydney Theatre Award in 2011, Logie award 2014 and AACTA Award 2014) will be joined by a highly acclaimed and experienced cast including Matilda Award-winning actor (for Queensland Theatre’s An OctoroonAnthony Standish, Matilda Award-nominated Jeremy Ambrum (Queensland Theatre’s The Longest Minute, also in Mabo, ClevermanSecret Daughter) and Logie award-winning Shari Sebbens (Queensland Theatre’s An Octoroon, also in Black is the New White, TV Redfern Now, Black Comedy Film Top End Wedding, Thor: Ragnarok, The Sapphires).

 

A number of the cast will be making their Queensland Theatre debut including Performing Arts WA (WAAPA) Award-winning actor, Maitland Schnaars (Black Swan State Theatre’s Let The Right One In, Yirri Yaakin Aboriginal Theatre’s Conversations With The Dead, Film I Met a Girl) and Mathew Cooper(Performing Lines The Season, MTC/Neon Lucky Film, The Marshes, Television Janet KingRedfern Now).

 

Seasoned stage, television and film actor, Christopher Stollery (film Last Cab to Darwin, TV Top of the Lake: China Girl, House of Hanock, Neighbours) will also perform for Queensland Theatre for the first time, fresh from his Sydney Theatre Award nomination for Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role for Ear to the Edge of Time.

 

The creatives behind City of Gold are some of the country’s most acclaimed and award-winning. Australian actor and dramaturg Isaac Drandic will direct (based in Cairns, he has been Queensland Theatre’s Resident Dramaturg since 2017), with Dramaturgy by Paige Rattray. Famed design team Simone Tesorieri and Simona Cosentini will bring the set to life, with Nathalie Ryner Costume Designer, Jason Glenwright Lighting Designer, and Tony Brumpton Composer and Sound Designer.

 

City of Gold: The Story

Breythe is a young actor making his way in Sydney when news of his father’s death calls him home to Kalgoorlie. Being back on Country and stretched between the politics of his feisty sister Carina and his dispirited brother Mateo, Breythe struggles to understand how he fits into his family or his community. His father haunts his dreams and an omen of death follows him. This is an electrifying glimpse into the entanglement of present-day and ‘traditional’ Indigenous culture through the eyes of a young man. The world premiere season of City of Gold will continue after Brisbane at Griffin Theatre Company in Sydney from July 26.

 

 

17
Jun
19

TOSCA

 

Tosca

Opera Queensland

QPAC Lyric Theatre

June 13 – 22 2019

 

Reviewed by Shannon Miller

 

 

Last year within the walls of the historic Italian city of Lucca, I visited the birthplace of Tosca’s composer, Giacomo Puccini who was born in 1858. Once a wealthy apartment overlooking the Piazza Cittadella it is now a museum enshrined with his personal artefacts, costumes from his operas, personal letters and postcards, photographs, and an old baby grand piano said to have been used by the young composer before he departed for Milan where he would undergo his serious musical training. He would go on to eventually write the operas which he has now become so famous for including Tosca, the awe-inspiring production currently part of Opera Queensland’s 2019 season.

 

 

With its themes of police corruption, executive overreach, political terrorism and feminism, it’s not hard to see why Tosca continues to hold relevance for contemporary audiences, despite its first debut more than 100 years ago, in 1900. Program notes co-authored by artistic director, Patrick Nolan and executive director, Sandra Willis make mention of our media recently becoming the focus of the world’s attention due to the raids on our national broadcaster, calling into question the idea of free speech and the integrity of the media – concepts central to Tosca’s verismo melodrama.

 

Originally set against the Napoleonic invasion of Rome in the 1800s, director Nolan sets the scene during Italy’s ‘Years of Lead’: a dark period of great political terrorism and violence spanning the 1960s and 1980s. (*Lead allegedly denoting the shootings and bombings of the time.)

 

As we enter the Lyric Theatre the curtain is already up. We see a church with floors polished to a mirror’s gleam. There are candles to be lit, long minimalist pews, imposing linear structures, and cubic compartments framing the proscenium as if the set will attempt to contain in an orderly fashion what chaos and tragedy will seek to undo. The production design is boastful and foreboding, and the program notes explain that it is the work of Italian modernist architect Pier Luigi Nervi that influenced the design; a conflation of religious iconography and bureaucratic geometry – a tension upon which the plot of Tosca pivots.

 

Angelotti, sung by Sam Hartley, is an escaped political prisoner who takes refuge inside the church and hides as a Sacristan enters to prepare for the evening mass. Joining him is Cavaradossi, sung by Angus Wood, an artist employed to paint a portrait of the Mary Magdalene. The iconic motifs of the strings and woodwind herald the opening of the first main aria Recondita Armonia. Here, we get a real sense of Woods’ bold tenor voice; a resonant and youthful timbre which lilts boldly, but wraps sensitively with a controlled legato around the lyrical phrasing. With the climax of the aria’s closing note, we pinch ourselves as we come to realise, we are indeed listening to one of the world’s most beloved operas, and we’re in expert hands.

 

The Sacristan leaves, Angelotti re-emerges, and after promising to protect him, Angelotti hides as Cavaradossi’s girlfriend arrives, Floria Tosca a famous singer. The titular character, sung by Rachelle Durkin, channels Sophia Loren with wild sunglasses, high-waisted pants, a silk floral blouse and fur, no less. Tosca’s gumption, style and physicality are magnetic as Durkin commands respect, inhabiting the stage with a conspicuous nonchalance, her voice generously picking out the flowers in the music, while gorgeously navigating its churning ocean with a vibrant vocalism and vibrato that lashes but then reigns in to show off a deeper discipline and modesty. She jealously accuses Cavaradossi of cheating on her and also that the painting resembles another woman as the two engage in playful tête-à-têtes. They are in love and we cannot help but fall in love with them.

 

 

After they leave, the Sacristan returns with a congregation, but the celebrations are interrupted by chief of police, Baron Scarpia. Moustached and skivvied, he is followed by his police agents and henchmen hot on the trail of Angelotti. Scarpia, sung richly by baritone Jose Carbo, leads the chorus in the final number of the first act – a rousing Te Deum – which is a more structured piece speaking to the rigidity of the internal demons of process that drive Scarpia; very much in contrast to the musical language of our lovers. The chorus and orchestra fuse together, the melody twisting upward impossibly, divinely, and culminating with a palpable electricity still buzzing amongst the audience during intermission.

 

In act two, Scarpia, in an effort to discover the whereabouts of Angelotti, will manipulate the lovers by torturing and threatening to execute Cavaradossi unless Tosca yields to his sexual advances. In a final plea to God, she sings a heartbreaking Vissi d’arte, followed by Woods’ E lucevan le stelle – arguably Puccini’s best tenor aria outside of Turandot’s Nessun Dorma. Woods’ performance had me so star struck and fangirling that I was flung back to my bedroom floor at thirteen, singing along to a $5 bargain bin compact disc titled Puccini Favourites which I still have to this very day.

 

 

Show stealers maestro, Oliver Von Dohnanyi and the Queensland Symphony Orchestra bring this magnanimous score to life; a demanding musical work of extremist romantic dynamics, sensitivity and vociferous power. The orchestra were generous and rigorous in their efforts to produce the chocolate, velvet and violence necessary for Tosca to leave you breathless and yearning. Opera Queensland’s production of Tosca shouldn’t be missed. With its complex, modern sets and period costumes by Dale Ferguson, contemporary lighting concepts by Mark Howett, and masterful direction by Patrick Nolan, this is an extravaganza; a unique and successful revitalising of one of the world’s most sacrosanct cultural artefacts.

 

25
May
19

Boy Swallows Universe takes to the stage

 

 

Queensland Theatre and Brisbane Festival to produce the world premiere season of Trent Dalton’s breakout mega-hit novel

 

In a huge coup, Queensland Theatre has secured the rights for the world premiere of the stage version of Brisbane-born Australian author Trent Dalton’s breakout mega-hit novel, Boy Swallows Universe.

Queensland Theatre’s Artistic Director Sam Strong will direct an adaptation by Tim McGarry in a co-production between Queensland Theatre and Brisbane Festival. The stage version of Boy Swallows Universe will have its world premiere as part of Brisbane Festival in September 2020, in the 50th year of Queensland Theatre, Sam Strong’s final season as Artistic Director and Louise Bezzina’s first season as Artistic Director of Brisbane Festival.

The announcement comes on the back of a record-breaking four-prize win for Dalton at the Australian Book Industry Awards, with the novel officially becoming Australia’s number 1 book overall, and number 1 fiction book, as measured by Nielsen BookScan last week. On Wednesday Dalton was included in the 2019 longlist for the Miles Franklin Award, Australia’s most prestigious writing accolade.

“We’re thrilled to announce that in 2020, Queensland Theatre in partnership with Brisbane Festival will produce a theatrical version of Trent Dalton’s extraordinary novel, Boy Swallows Universe. The novel is the hottest property in Australian storytelling, deserving every ounce of the praise that has been lavished on it and all of the incredible success it has achieved,” said Strong.

“Moreover, Trent’s book is absolutely ripe for adapting to the stage: featuring larger-than-life characters, an effortless combination of magic realism and crime-thriller, unforgettable set pieces written with a cinematic visual flair, and dialogue that just leaps off the page.

“Boy Swallows Universe has captivated hundreds of thousands of Australians with its arresting portrait of growing up in 80s Brisbane. It has captured the hearts of us all through its story of love’s triumph over the darkest of circumstances. I am more excited about the theatrical version of Boy Swallows Universe than any of the 30 odd shows I have directed for the Australian mainstage. I cannot wait to direct this landmark Brisbane story on a Queensland Theatre stage.”

Trent Dalton said the announcement of Boy Swallows Universe coming to the Queensland Theatre stage was absolutely perfect.

“Everything about this production is perfect. It had to be staged here. This glorious, complex, sweltering city is in my blood and my blood is in that book. It was the people of Brisbane who took that wild, strange book and ran with it first and that book belongs to them now and this production will belong to them, too.”

He said never in a million years did he believe the story would go from the page, to the stage.

“My goal was a simple one: to see that story put into a hard copy book so I could hand just one copy to my mum, who still lives in the outer northern suburbs of Brisbane, and I could say, “This is why I love you so much”. Now I can take that early-60s warrior woman grandma to a play in the city and she can see some incredible performers under lights telling some of her story and I can lean over to her in the theatre and whisper, “This is why I love you so much.”

 

 

He said he saw the theatre as a magical, dark, wondrous place. “I love theatre so much and I love Queensland Theatre,” he said. “Sam Strong is a theatre genius and I’ve told him he has my blessing to go as big and as ambitious and as creative as his big brain can take him. I’ll be Matty Bowen to his Johnathan Thurston, supporting him all the way. But, like any good Queensland fullback, I’ll know exactly when to step out of the way,” he said.

He said he can imagine the opening night feeling already.

“Brisbane will be in full sunshine glory, purple jacarandas will be blowing in spring breezes, the Broncos will be in the finals and I’ll be somewhere in that beautiful theatre with a packet of barbecue Samboys saying, ‘How the hell did I ever get so lucky?’.

“Just to see these so often overlooked Brisbane places that are so dear and connected to me – Bracken Ridge, Darra, old Boggo Road Gaol – put up there on stage is deeply moving to me. There are countless people that I love, heart and soul, out there in those suburbs who might be able to come to that play and say, ‘Yeah, that’s my world, that’s my Brisbane’, and I’ll be right there beside them screaming, ‘Hell yes, ain’t it glorious’.

Sam Strong said adaptor Tim McGarry was the first playwright out of the blocks for the book based on his passion and affinity for the story.

“Tim McGarry brings his impressive experience with creating new Australian stories and especially adaptations of novels to the task of adapting Trent’s book. Tim has already written an incredible adaptation of Trent’s extraordinary novel and I can’t wait to work with them both to bring Boy Swallows Universe to life in the theatre.”

McGarry said he read the book in less than 24 hours while on holidays in far North Queensland.

Boy Swallows Universe is a captivating coming-of-age story set in Brisbane’s violent working-class suburban fringe, inspired by the real-life events of journalist Trent Dalton’s complicated youth. It tells the story of twelve-year-old Eli Bell, who finds comfort in his extraordinary imagination as a means of escaping from his challenging life with a mute brother, a mother in jail, a heroin dealer for a stepfather and a notorious crim for a babysitter. Surrounded by chaos and with very little moral guidance from the adults around him, Eli sets out on an ambitious suburban odyssey that sees him meet the father he doesn’t remember, break into Boggo Road Gaol to rescue his mum, come face to face with the criminals who tore his world apart, and fall in love with the girl of his dreams. At its core, Boy Swallows Universe is a story of brotherhood and the spark of young love; it’s also the unlikely true story of the formative friendship Dalton shared with Arthur ‘Slim’ Halliday, the greatest escape artist ever confined to Brisbane’s Boggo Road Gaol.

“I could barely put it down. There were times I could barely breathe. I was completely captivated by Eli Bell, his journey, his charisma, his desperation to try and better understand the dark world he inhabited. I was captivated by the magic and wisdom of August. I found the characters so richly rendered. The complex world Trent created just leapt off the page. Collaborating with Sam Strong and his team on this particular work is mind-blowingly exciting for me.”

Strong said Queensland Theatre was thrilled to be partnering with Brisbane Festival. “Artistic Director Louise Bezzina has a passion for Brisbane stories and working with Brisbane companies, so it makes perfect sense that our two organisations come together to co-produce the most exciting Brisbane story in decades.”

Louise Bezzina said Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe was the quintessential Brisbane story.

“I am thrilled that as part of my first Festival as Artistic Director we will co-present the stage adaptation of this enormously celebrated and popular book in partnership with Queensland Theatre. Brisbane Festival is deeply committed to telling the stories of our great City and this new production will be a wonderful centrepiece of the 2020 program,” she said.

Published in July 2018, Boy Swallows Universe has now sold over 160,000 copies in Australia across all formats and has been awarded several of Australia’s top literary awards, including Book of the Year at both the Australian Book Industry Awards and the Indie Book Awards, the NSW Premier’s Literary Award for New Writer and People’s Choice Award, and the MUD Literary Prize. Rights to Boy Swallows Universe have been sold to 34 English language and translation territories.

 

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21
May
19

Kill Climate Deniers

 

Kill Climate Deniers

Metro Arts and That Production Company

Metro Arts

May 15 – 25 2019

 

Reviewed by Shannon Miller

 

 

As I left David Finnigan’s play Kill Climate Deniers, I checked my phone and was struck by the news that Bob Hawke had died. My first reaction was of a selfish, mortal fear of having accomplished nothing in my life, and that death and annihilation were real even for leviathans. Some years before I was catching a taxi with a friend from the cab rank at the State Library of Queensland and I heard someone behind me shouting, Blanche! Blanche! in a voice unmistakably Bob Hawkes’. I turned to see the man himself standing behind me, unassuming, yet distinguished, and dressed in a brown-grey suit, quickly taking the hand of his beautiful companion. Together they vanished into the taxi they’d hailed. I was taken aback by his presence, immediately star struck and with a jealous pride, I thought to myself even then, how does someone carve out for themselves a life of meaningful contribution like Bob Hawke.

 

And now, following the result of the recent federal election, Metro Arts’ play Kill Climate Deniers couldn’t be more relevant with proponents of climate change reform waking with a severe election hangover to the realisation that their worst nightmares have in fact come to pass. That Australian voters have swung away from serious environmental policies in favour of more personally affecting economic imperatives.

 

‘Strange as it sounds, it is an enormous achievement of consciousness to recognise that, as a species, we face great problems which are of our own making and which, for the moment, we are unable to solve’. These words from Doug Cocks’ Global Overshoot: Contemplating the World’s Converging Problems are projected onto the stage as we take to our seats, and they will no doubt underpin the philosophy of this play which is unapologetically about the politics of climate change.

 

Out of some fractured abstract beginning scenes and angsty poetry readings, a traditional narrative emerges; a comedy about the besieging of Canberra’s Parliament House during a live performance of Fleetwood Mac by a troupe of eco-terrorists who ostensibly hold the audience hostage—the ransom of which is for the government to end global warming.  Holed up in the ladies’ bathroom, the Environment Minister played exuberantly by Jessica Veurman and her trusty social media manager, Charleen Marsters together navigate their way out of their predicament John-McClane-Die-Hard-style.

 

 

Veurman is perfectly cast as the glamourous Environment Minister, a puppet ruler who finds herself completely out of her depth and in the centre of a fierce protest between eco-propaganda, climate science and campaign fear mongering. She’s peddling the government’s solar radiation management policy to essentially blot out the sun and combat global warming and her social media advisor is deftly sculpting her a hip and unbiased public image. Veurman is forced to stand for her ideals and eventually goes full Kill Bill on her marauders while Martsers is charming, capturing her boss’s insta-stories and boosting her follower numbers.

 

 

The writing is clever and genuinely funny, metaphysically self-referencing and critiquing itself, and while at times the text delves too obviously into rant and political diatribe, it’s buoyed by the cast; all strong, energetic and contemporary women who work hard together to pull this off. With its costume-wig swapping and satirical lampooning, it’s similar to the sketch comedy and political strawmen of Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell characters. While there’s relevance to the politicisation of Peter Garret’s band Midnight Oil, references to the playwright’s 80s and 90’s pop music influences, although added for colour and to give the audience a break from the preaching, are filibuster, unnecessarily prolonging an already too long show. At over two hours with no interval, actors are fatigued by the end defaulting into campish ham with the text exhausted of witty commentary, giving over to silly fight scenes and farce. Nevertheless, the audience lap this up. It’s funny, silly stuff with some serious thought-provoking messages about climate change, the divisive nature of politics and the private sector agenda seeking to capitalise on the public’s fear, confusion and ignorance, with the true causality of inaction getting lost and forgotten in the message: the dwindling environment itself.

 

Caitlin Hill’s noteworthy performance as the narrator stood out as the show’s moral compass and the technical artists: Daniel Anderson’s lighting design, Wil Hughes’ sound design and Justin Harrison’s AV design are all impeccably schmick and visually arresting under the eye of Timothy Wynn’s expert direction.