Posts Tagged ‘matthew ryan





Queensland Theatre Company

QPAC Playhouse

April 11 – May 2 2015


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward



I am absolutely sure – 100% sure – that it (the break down in the development of new Australian works) cannot be solved by just trying to pick winners. I don’t think that that is a viable strategy for horse racing let alone for playwriting. You need some deeper philosophical, political, social and artistic sense of what drama is if you’re going to encourage and develop Australian drama into its next diverse and myriad-formed existence.

Julian Meyrick





Drama is like the minute hand of the clock.

Julian Meyrick



I’ve been thinking about who you are, reading this blog, with pieces that are sometimes so sporadically posted I wonder that you come back at all, and I wonder what you’re seeing in between visiting here. And what does it matter, and what should become of it… I’ve been thinking about not writing but I have to, even when the process of writing something about a show sometimes takes longer than the run of a show. I love the process. I love considering what might be worth mentioning and what might be better left unsaid. I love living through the productions and reliving that journey after the curtain comes down. I love the theatre, the people involved, and this place, where I can share my experience with you, whoever you are, whatever it is you’re here for. I’m not sure what else to do with it – perhaps you have some ideas – and I keep deferring developing this site, and further study and a second blog purely for writing because I’m not sure what to do with all of THAT, what shape everything needs to take, or what any of it will do for me, or for you, but I keep coming back here, as you do, to keep some sort of quiet conversation going, perhaps just so it doesn’t stop.



{What happens when you have authority speaking about what happens in the theatre?}

We must have a cultural memory.

Alison Croggon



Over a week ago I saw Matthew Ryan’s Brisbane. Since opening night, I’ve been thinking about how we teach our children about war. It was always the part of studying ancient and modern history that I couldn’t understand. I still don’t understand it. I try to convey the respect and gratitude I feel for those who went to war to protect our right to live in a country of freedom and privilege. I have mixed feelings about teaching the pride part. I’m not even sure how I feel about my grandfather’s role in the war. This week I joined the family at his funeral, which included a full soldier’s farewell, and then I joined the local community at a traditional ANZAC Day commemorative service, sans Welcome to Country and frustratingly prayer fuelled. Okay. I know. We’re still a nation commanded by God. I should get over it. But WAR. LEARNED HATRED. FORCED, RELENTLESS, USELESS KILLING. WTF?


Over 30 000 Australian servicemen were taken prisoner in the Second World War. Two-thirds of those taken prisoner were captured by the Japanese during their advance through south-east Asia within the first weeks of 1942. While those who became prisoners of the Germans had a strong chance of returning home at the end of the war, 36 per cent of prisoners of the Japanese died in captivity.




My grandfather, Merv Henry Grulke, was a Sparrow Force guerilla soldier and a (POW) Changi survivor. He was three years off receiving his telegram from the queen when he died last week, just six months after my grandma left us. It’s a well-deserved rest for someone who, like so many, endured years of physical and mental anguish during and after the Second World War. During, after any war…


Brisbane, 1942: a big country town jumping at shadows, never knowing if that buzz in the air is a cicada or a squadron of merciless Japanese Zeroes. World War II took the city’s innocence, and that of 14-year-old Danny Fisher.

Danny’s dashing pilot brother has been killed in the Bombing of Darwin. As Danny’s devastated family unravels, the teen finds a surrogate sibling in Andy, one of the Americans stationed in Brisbane. The American pilot takes Danny under his wing, and as the tension begins to rise between the Yank and Aussie servicemen, Danny hatches a reckless revenge plan against those who took his brother.


Until I was four years old I lived in an old Queenslander just like fourteen-year-old Danny’s. (And then again during uni days, with actors, actually in Brisbane, but that’s another story). I don’t know if my memories of that first house in Emerald are from being there, or from the photos and stories stashed away in albums and minds since. I think I remember the smell of the dust, and spider webs and shadows and cricket balls and suitcases and appliances, and piles of things that didn’t belong anywhere else.




Designer, Stephen Curtis has perfectly realised the freedom, the playful sense of growing up in an old Queenslander, recreating the immense space of the high ceilinged house and its nether regions beneath. The same space becomes the famous, much loved Brisbane dance hall, Cloudland, and later across the river, the Trocadero. Lit bewitchingly by David Walters, the house itself is full of potential and/or missed opportunity, an undercurrent of the play, and underneath exists a magical space where anything is possible. No missed opportunities here, the set is in synch with every aspect of the story. There are not too many main stage productions that get it THIS right.


There is a good side to not being crushed by culture… there’s a tremendous freedom in Australian performance and a huge intelligence, and a kind of disrespect that’s really healthy.


The air is thick and wet and the sun burns your skin like it hates your guts. January’s got it in for everyone. It has a temper that builds and builds, until it’s had enough of you and dumps a mountain of water and electricity on your head to end it quick. Then it starts over again. The smell of the dirt road mixes with the pong of dead fruit that falls from the trees. Houses sit on stilts, breathing the cool air beneath them. Street after street. Streets that make up suburbs. Suburbs that make up Brisbane…


I’m sure the haters will say, “Oh, C’MON!” but for me this is magnificent, evocative, poetic writing. I love it. I love the feeeeel of it, the energy of it, the cheeky pointers and the gentle, quiet gaps, which Matthew Ryan is confident to leave for director, designer, actors and audiences to fill. I loved Kelly (currently enjoying a national tour), and Brisbane now puts Ryan in a unique position as a writer in this country, sharing our cultural and historical stories in a way we haven’t yet heard. We’ve read something like it – there are similar insightful voices on the page – but his is a theatrical narrative voice that’s refreshing and magically real on stage (and it’s so suited to Australian film; I hope we see something on screen soon). It’s a more personal, more poignant, more cleverly critical style, supporting our fondest memories and challenging notions of what’s already been recorded. The balance of light and dark is just about perfect, and except for the thank-god-bless-us-and-bathe-us-in-light moment at the end, it strikes all the right chords. (Oh dear, but that major chord! That golden light through what might as well be stained glass windows! An eye roll moment indeed!).


The text highlights the national state of mind at the time, which reflected our notions of “mateship”, machismo, fearful and unforgiving parenting, and our attitudes towards war, women and foreigners.




A comical “cringe” moment in the play (as in, “We probs shouldn’t be laughing at this”) serves to challenge our current notions too, and it reminds me of that terrible episode of Popeye, you know, The Sailor Man, which never aired but had been included in a DVD box set, which I innocently put on for Poppy one day. In Brisbane, the kids of the neighbourhood play at shooting down the Japanese, as kids were wont to do at the time. In the black & white classic series, Popeye defeats the entire Japanese army, referring to the enemy as “slant-eyed, buck-toothed, yellow-skinned Japansies”. By making light of the ugly truth about human nature it’s even more disturbing to recognise it! Still! Art is a mirror. Or a hammer… Yes. You’ve got to be carefully taught.





There musn’t be one single discourse.



These characters are so familiar yet we are able to stay safely, emotionally, distant from them. It’s the comedy and the abstractness of the storytelling, switching between real events and what Danny sees is his world that challenges us to consider another point of view. It’s magic realism at play, and it’s not to say we don’t care about them – far from it – we feel deeply for Danny (Dash Kruck), who loses his older brother, Frank (Conrad Coleby perfectly double cast as the American ex-pilot, Andy), and for Frank’s father (Hayden Spencer at his most brutal best), who essentially loses both sons when Frank dies. As for the broken mother, Annie (Veronica Neave), we recognise her deeply personal grief and the embodiment of the women of the era; their ability to pick up the pieces, step into traditionally male roles and “get on with it” while their men either crumble around them or don’t return home. It’s not entirely surprising that it’s she who finally finishes a mini reno on Frank’s room. We see similar resilience in the “big sister”, Rose (Lucy Goleby, luminescent in this role).




Kruck has been gifted the role of a lifetime in this production. Because Ryan has made the most of his knowledge of Kruck’s physicality and natural vocal cadence during the rehearsal process, the character, as it’s written, is a perfect fit. Under Iain Sinclair’s bold direction, Kruck clearly relishes the opportunity to stretch his wings. He is perfectly matched by the fierce and very funny Harriet Dyer as the best friend, the “cripple”, Patty. I adore Patty, in a way that I would never dare to in real life because I’d be terrified of her! Of course there have always been women learning on their own to be THAT strong (and THAT feared! Ha!). Kruck and Dyer and Goleby develop close connections that are highly entertaining and deeply moving. The moments of sexual awakening are hilarious and the unrequited love, treated so sensitively and tenderly, is actually heartbreaking.




Our history has such dark moments but there is good, gorgeous, wicked humour here too; the comedy is intelligently written and unashamedly playfully delivered. So much of it comes from the familiar colloquialisms and the childish behaviour of the school bullies and the country’s politicians. We enjoy razor sharp parodies of the leaders at the time, like grotesque tongue-in-cheek comic strips brought to life. This comical theatrical style, thrown casually in amongst the rest, won’t please everybody but it’s a deliberate device; it highlights the propaganda of war and lightens the heavy mood. Matthew Backer, Daniel Murphy and Hugh Parker play these multiple roles (to the hilt!), alerting us to the similarities between the bullies in government and in the street.




Nothing is lost on the opening night audience. The first reference to Cloudland is a sentence completed in an anticipatory whisper by the audience before the actor can do so and there is an awesome moment of collective pride, the nodding and smiling of people in The Playhouse as they remember… It’s a magical moment – the magic of live theatre – and it’s not lost on those who weren’t there to see the real thing. We get it.


The mere presence of new Australian work is no guarantee of cultural health; it has to be Australian work that matters.


Dramaturg, Louise Gough, has obviously had a hand in making this work one that matters. It’s one thing to be making and staging new Australian work; it’s another thing entirely to be contributing to the canon of work that informs our history. These stories have come from the truth told by so many. We must keep hearing these stories, seeing them, sharing them. We must try to learn from them. History repeats itself because we don’t learn from it! I hope this is a version of our history you’ll get to experience before it finishes here. I’ll experience it again this week with our students, and I look forward to hearing (reading, marking…) their take on it.


What is not being said, what is not being written down, what is not recorded, what is not even noticed?


Slouch hats off to QTC’s World Premiere production of Matthew Ryan’s Brisbane; it’s set to become a true blue Australian classic. You must see it.



Additional quotes taken from AUDIO | STAGE Episode 2 Alison Croggon / Writing History


The Escapists’ boy girl wall – next stop Pittsburgh USA


This little comedy with the biggest heart has a cast of 25 performed by one man, a stick of chalk and a sock puppet! It is not a love story, it’s a story about love…and physics…and evolution…and mad magpies…and the stars.





You know The Escapists and you know their hit show boy girl wall. I love it! I reviewed it in 2011…


Boy Girl Wall

The Escapists

30th March-17th April 2011

The Roundhouse Theatre 


Conceptual, comical, physical theatre at its best.


It’s really difficult to describe this show but to stop at that would make a very poor review, wouldn’t it? It’s not a love story, as we were told from the outset; it’s a story about love. And inanimate objects. Sure, we meet a boy, a girl, a boss, a publisher, parents, and an Alan Cummings inspired (don’t try to tell me it wasn’t) “ironically gothic” librarian’s assistant and then a wall, a ceiling, a floor, a statue, a computer, two doors and a power box (is that everybody?)… All in a one-man show!


I could mention a whole host of hilarious little anecdotes, involving a bicycle named Penelope and the malicious Magpie of Montague Road, or tell you all about the co-operative matchmaking antics of the wall, the ceiling, the floor and the doors of a couple of West End apartments but that would be glossing over the real magic of this production, which is the storyteller himself.


Lucas Stibbard is the creative genius behind The Escapists, a creative team of “Realisers” (Matthew Ryan, Neridah Waters and Sarah Winter join Stibbard in the production process), working collaboratively to conceptualise and bring to life, truly unique new works. Stibbard’s performance – all seventy-five minutes of it – was dynamic (and the invitation he extended to me, to play a small role at a crucial moment in the play, a very clever and unexpected interactive device)!


In keeping with the slick nature of this production, deceptively simple design (Jonothan Oxlade), carefully measured lighting (Keith Clark) and sound effects and music (Neridah Waters) supported Stibbard’s efforts.


Props to La Boite Theatre Company’s Artistic Director, David Berthold, who saw the potential of boy girl wall in its previous incarnation at !Metro Arts in 2010. Going by the buzz of the capacity opening night crowd before and after the show, it appears Berthold made a wise choice.
This show is like taking an illicit substance before class and giggling ’til you think you’ve heard the bell…well, of course I can only imagine that’s what it’s like (it’s a show that is, after all, largely dependent on your imagination). I laughed ’til I had tears streaming down my cheeks and never more so than during an entire minute of sock puppet fellatio that has to be seen to be believed.


This is a truly original, hyper-creative piece that has clearly come from a place that is inaccessible to most of us. The characters and stories within the story are all at once enchanting, horrifying, mortifying and even, at times, endearing. Not without its tender moments, boy girl wall is unique, defying typical form and laughing out loud at traditional theatrical styles. Rather than pushing boundaries, it draws new ones, literally, in white chalk, on a blackboard painted floor and walls constructed from free-standing, old fashioned chalk boards; I remember them from Year 1, when the photocopying came back hot and purple-inked from the office.


This is the simplest of stories, told in the most complex, physically and mentally demanding multi-modal delivery imaginable. This is an Edinburgh Fringe show. This is a small global sensation. This is the little show that could and it is a little gem that mustn’t be missed.


Now boy girl wall has been invited to present a showcase performance of the work at the prestigious International Performing Arts for Youth conference (IPAY) which will be held in Pittsburgh USA in January 2014.


This conference collects the best of the best in works for young people and presents them to potential presenters in the USA, Canada and beyond. This is a phenomenal opportunity for The Escapists to take their work to the world.


Boy Girl Wall Trailer from Metro Arts on Vimeo.


Your last chance to see boy girl wall in Brisbane is on Monday December 16 at Brisbane Powerhouse. Tickets on sale on Friday December 7 at 8pm but by contributing to the campaign (there are just 10 hours to go!) you avoid the Box Office booking fees!


To score 2 tix for the performance on Monday 16 give $70 (57 available)


To win a dinner date with The Escapists and 2 tix for the performance on Monday 16 give $500 (only 1 available)


To book a workshop and a private performance at your school give $2000 (only 1 available)



10 hours to go! GO!




The Lost Property Rules

The Lost Property Rules

Queensland Theatre Company

Bille Brown Studio

02– 05 July 2013


Reviewed by Poppy Eponine & Xanthe Coward 


The Lost Property Rules is sure to have a long life after its premiere season at the Bille Brown Studio during the school holidays this week. From here the show goes to Perth, and it would certainly be an easy sell to schools and NARPACA venues all over the country, so I expect to see it again somewhere down the track.


601685_577173622334278_63845_nIt’s a cute combination of stories, told via that very simple, and lovely old-fashioned theatrical device, actual storytelling.


The audience is asked to use their imaginations.



In The Lost Property Box there are rules that must be followed…




Alice and Isobel are lost. They are about to meet some new friends. Whether they want to or not, that’s another story.

From acclaimed Brisbane playwright Matthew Ryan (Kelly, Sacre Bleu! and boy girl wall) comes a tale of mystery, joy, fear and what it means to be brave. Under the imaginative direction of Lucas Stibbard (boy girl wall), three performers will weave a quirky story of two young girls about to embark on one of the scariest moments in a young person’s life:


moving house and moving schools.


I took two of Poppy’s friends with us to see this show on Tuesday afternoon – one of them had never been to a live theatre production before – and they loved The Lost Property Rules. It was exciting to get the invite, it was exciting to get up in the morning and get dressed for the theatre, it was exciting to drive ALL THE WAY TO BRISBANE, and it was super exciting to walk into the lovely, friendly space at QTC’s headquarters to see a show. Before the doors opened, the girls took the opportunity to write descriptions and stories on postcards about “lost things”, which were laid out on a table in the foyer. When it was time to go in, they proudly presented their tickets at the door and were invited to sit right up front with the other kids, already chatting with the performers on stage (Louise Brehmer, Stephanie Tandy and Thomas Larkin). I could mention that there were clearly some mums who would not have minded joining their kids on the floor at Thom Larkin’s feet but I won’t.



This show is a winner because it combines all the elements in such a way as to make kids forget where they are. AND IT’S FUN! Poppy told me that she felt like she could jump into the pictures on the postcards. I love that this device worked, you know, like in Mary Poppins, when they jump into the chalk drawings on the pavement. No tricks, no gadgets, no high-tech stuff needed! Just as Dead Puppet Society did for Argus, the company relied on our imaginations, and recycled and reused props, and bits and pieces from out of storage to tell their story.


Under Lucas Stibbard’s direction, The Lost Property Rules has a distinct boy girl wall feel to it (Larkin’s phrasing and timing at times guarantees it!), and with Writer, Matthew Ryan, in the rehearsal room for the past three weeks, the show has developed to a point where it’s obvious everybody has had a great time playing. The sense of play, and the energy of these talented performers, fuels the kids, who laugh and cry out and gasp in all the right places. It’s as if we’re a part of some lovely global conspiracy – a brand new, genetically modified form of pantomime…and we’re lucky enough to get it first. Unlike Monsanto, Queensland Theatre Company is not out to reap profits without considering our health and wellbeing. This show is beautifully imagined, it’s well executed, and it’s been so well received already that I’m going to let Poppy take over, and tell you what it was like to be a seven-year old in the wonderful imaginary worlds of the lost property box.


My friends and I loved the show so much we actually did exactly what we promised we would do in the promising swearing. (Promising swearing is not bad language swearing).


This is what we promised:


I solemnly swear,
 To laugh when it’s funny and cry when it’s sad,
 To be scared when it’s scary and boo when it’s bad,
 I swear with all my heart through and through,
 That the story told here is completely untrue.


Eva and Tayla were very excited to sit on cushions at the front, which they’d set up for the kids. I knew Thom because he’s famous and we’ve seen him in shows before. We saw him in Treasure Island and after the show, Tayah and I went up on stage to have a photo with him. It’s probably on Facebook. Mum sat with Todd who is another famous actor, but not in this show, in the adults’ show, in Venus In Fur. She is making Daddy go see it, it is THAT GOOD!


Xanthe: Um. You don’t really have to say that. Is it relevant?


Poppy: Yes it is relevant. And you can link to it, Mum.


Xanthe: OKAY!



Eva had NEVER been to the theatre before to see a real show! So it was a new experience for her. It was fun to go the theatre together. We felt like we were triplets and we didn’t want to leave each other but the girls wanted to see their mum and dad again of course. We went for cake and hot chocolate first. At The Three Monkeys, where we go after a show. We played I Spy and What Am I Thinking Of? all the way home.


The show got a bit spooky when the dog came out and it felt like he was going to pull a kid out onto the stage! (Just to let you know, it wasn’t a real dog, it was Thom acting as a dog, but it was so real you could imagine it was a dog!).


They were all amazing. The actors were so good that I felt like I was IN THE PICTURE. I actually got scared, and I was crying a little and laughing a little, exactly like I said I would! Louise is really good at accents, and she had a funny one for the cat. I think it was a Russian cat, but it wasn’t really, it was just a cat from the Sushi Train counter being a Russian cat with Louise’s voice for his voice.



The stories were good and my friends liked the vet scene the best (it was the scary one, BUT the flying feathers from the parrot’s haircut were REALLY FUNNY! Luckily, we know the parrot wasn’t hurt because they told us afterwards it was just a haircut), but I had no favourite scene. I liked the sound effects and the props that they used. Eva asked about the props after the show and they are all found things, recycled and reused. I was a bit too shy to ask a question but my question is how did they get the show ready in just THREE WEEKS?



I would have nudged my friends to say it was so perfect that I would like to be in a show like that but I didn’t want to disturb the actors or my friends. I loved it! It was fabulous!



The Lost Property Rules – we have 3 family passes up for grabs!




Thanks to QTC we are giving away 3 x family passes to the awesome school holiday show The Lost Property Rules


You can use your family pass to see the show TOMORROW (Tuesday) at 10am or 2pm OR WEDNESDAY at 10am or 2pm.


Leave a comment in the comments section below telling us why you and your kids MUST see The Lost Property Rules before the school holidays finish! We’ll choose the most entertaining answers and let you know on our Facebook page and via email if you’ve scored a family pass to see the show! Don’t forget to let us know which performance you’d like to attend!


If you miss out on these tix (4 tix per family pass) you’ll have to make other arrangements, but be quick because this show must close this week, on Friday July 5th!

The Lost Property Rules – 2 to 5 July


Concept devised by Louise Brehmer and Matthew Ryan.


A playful physical performance using puppetry and object theatre.



I solemnly swear,

To laugh when it’s funny and cry when it’s sad,

To be scared when it’s scary and boo when it’s bad,

I swear with all my heart through and through,

That the story told here is completely untrue.



In The Lost Property Box there are rules that must be followed. Alice and Isobel are lost. They are about to meet some new friends. Whether they want to or not, that’s another story.


From acclaimed Brisbane playwright Matthew Ryan (Kelly, Sacre Bleu! andboy girl wall) comes a tale of mystery, joy, fear and what it means to be brave. Under the imaginative direction of Lucas Stibbard (boy girl wall), three performers will weave a quirky story of two young girls about to embark on one of the scariest moments in a young person’s life: moving house and moving schools.


Queensland Theatre Company’s Bille Brown Studio – 78 Montague Road, South Brisbane


For 8 – 12 year olds.


Bookings online if you miss these tix.


Adult: $20
Child (18 months – 12 years): $20
Family Ticket (Admit 4): $50
Family Ticket valid for 2 adults, 2 children or 1 adult, 3 children


Additional free activities for 1 hour duration at conclusion of the performance


Duration: 55 mins


Tuesday 2 July 10:30am & 2pm

Wednesday 3 July 10:30am

Thursday 4 July 10:30am & 2pm

Friday 5 July 10:30am



Chasing the Whale

Chasing the Whale


Chasing the Whale

Soapbox Theatre Productions

The Space, The Arts Centre Gold Coast

1st – 10th November 2012


Reviewed by Lisa Gallagher


Chasing the Whale by Matthew Ryan (originally titled The Dance of Jeremiah) made its premiere in 2005 with Brisbane’s La Boite Theatre Company, bagging several awards including 2005 winner of Queensland Theatre Company’s 2000 George Landen Dann Award and was heavily nominated all round for the 2005 Matilda Awards after its La Boite Season.

This thought provoking comedy is brought to you by Soapbox Theatre Productions¸ who are the first production company to stage the revised version of the play.  Soapbox Theatre Productions are the current Artists in Residence at the Gold Coast Arts Centre.   Soap Box has produced works such as Tame It! (Swinging Safari and Cremorne Theatre – 2High Festival), Twelfth Night (Griffith University Drama Theatre), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Royal Pines Resort), O Woe Is Me (Brisbane Powerhouse – 2High Festival), Sophie Is… (Griffith University Drama Theatre) and The Taming of the Shrew (Griffith University Drama Theatre and The Zoo – The Anywhere Theatre Festival). 2011 saw Soapbox stage the highly successful The Taming of The Shrew and Cosi by Louis Nowra at the Arts Centre Gold Coast as part of the Fill this Space Program, while also securing a partnership with Artslink Queensland in touring Sophie Is….

Chasing the Whale is directed by Jessica Westhead, the current Artistic Director for Soapbox Theatre Productions.  Jessica has directed several productions such as The Taming of The Shrew (2011), Sophie Is… (2009), O Woe Is Me! (2007) and Production Coordinator for Twelfth Night (2006) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2006).  In Chasing the Whale, Jessica has made a sense of reality; the audience can relate to the characters, invoking a response of recognition, seeing a little of each character and their situations in themselves. A good comedy needs the actors to be in tune, with a sense of timing that has to come from either a very natural place or be very craftily directed. Both of these elements are evident Chasing the Whale.

Chasing the Whale is a play that many people could relate to.  Jerry Daniels is losing it, falling apart.  When Jerry’s boss and mentor meets a tragic end, he suddenly finds himself competing for the top job.  Jerry’s life has been pretty charmed up until this point.  He is blissfully unaware of what he has sacrificed to live in his perfect world.  Unmatched in the advertising world, Jerry is used to winning and begins his campaign for the top job.  Is Jerry working too hard, has it all become too much?  What else could explain the strange things that are happening?  Office desks begin to chase him, umbrellas are raining from the sky, and a self help tape becomes a little too personal when it begins to talk to him!  Haunted by his own Ad campaigns, Jerry’s life begins to unravel; can he keep it all together?

Stephen Hirst as Jerry Daniels is superb at portraying a high-flying ad exec who lives to create the next big illusion that will convince people that they need ‘it’.  He is able to embody that person who is sought after and copied in his professional life, but his personal life is in peril.  Hirst was a pleasure to watch, the seamless transition of his character showing his range to great effect.

Sarah Kennedy plays dual roles as Beth and The Girl.  Kennedy’s relationship with Hirst’s Jerry was hard to decipher at first, which adds to the depth and believability of the performance.  Kennedy was fantastic as the girl. The role allowed her to be fun, full of spirit and a little bit kooky.  The comparison between Kennedy’s portrayal of Beth and The Girl is very well done.  One is likeable, funny and sweet, the other bitter, sad and lonely.  Definitely gives one the chance to look at opportunity missed and what could have been.

James Odenbreit plays dual roles of Paul and the Guru on the self help tape. Odenbreit’s sense of timing was great. His energy as the Guru was invigorating; his presence so vibrant that he owned the stage.  So great was his change in demeanour from the guru to the fumbling Paul, I did a double take to check it actually was the same actor playing both roles.

Garth Ledwidge plays both Simon and Tom in the production.  Whilst we do not get to know Tom very well, Ledwidge certainly hits the spot with Simon.  His portrayal of the sneaky colleague who is only out for themselves is fantastic.  Watching him you know he is bad, yet he can be so nice.  Even though you know he is a narcissist, through Ledwidge’s portrayal of Simon, you almost want to like him.

Kim Stewart is terrific as the very literal Darcy!  Stewart demonstrated exceptional comedic timing, often stealing the show when she was on stage.  Stewart’s character was very likeable yet annoying at the same time.  Stewart’s character could have been just an addition to the play, but with Westhead’s direction and Stewart’s portrayal she was very much a central part of the experience.

Some parts of the play are left up to the audience to decipher and draw their own conclusions; this allows each audience member to take away something different, something personal to them.   If you have not been to a performance in The Space at the Gold Coast Art’s Centre, do yourself a favour and see Chasing the Whale.

Tickets still available from the Arts Centre for the final performances:   Thu Nov 8 at 7:30pm, Fri Nov 9 at 7:30pm, Sat Nov 10 at 7:30pm.



Chasing the Whale opens tonight on the Gold Coast!

Chasing the Whale

The Arts Centre Gold Coast with Artists in Residence Soapbox Theatre Productions presents

Chasing The Whale by Matthew Ryan

Directed by Jessica Westhead

Jerry Daniels is falling apart. 
Haunted by his own ad campaigns, Jerry struggles to keep his perfect world together.
But when you lock your life in a briefcase, don’t be surprised the day it wants out. 

Chasing the Whale is a surreal award-winning comedy and theatrical feast from Matt Ryan, the writer of Boy Girl Wall.

Chasing the Whale

Last week, we attended a special preview event for Chasing the Whale at the Arts Centre, with Soapbox Theatre Productions and invited guests.

There are a couple of things I’d like to mention about that evening. The first is that apparently, some of the invited guests didn’t show. Of course there were some who had politely declined the invitation well in advance and apologised for being pre-committed that evening and therefore unable to attend. And there were those who obviously felt bad at the last minute, sent a brief text message or Facebook message to inform somebody putting together a preview night for a major production who had time to check last minute messages, that they would not be in attendance.

I’m sure you’ll be relieved to know, as I always am in these circumstances, that no one was dying.

And there were some who just didn’t show.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. QTC Artistic Director, Wesley Enoch, who certainly has his social media sorted, posted on Facebook a similar thought the very day I was pondering this problem of old fashioned manners gone AWOL. You see, I threw a little party on the weekend and not only did I receive late text messages from friends who had decided not to stop by, I was disappointed days earlier to have not received any response at all from others. Did I follow up with annoying phone calls, sms messages and Facebook messages to chase people up for their RSVP? No. I knew I would have there the friends we were supposed to have there and I was right. It was a lovely night and we raised some money for the National Breast Cancer Foundation to boot. I’ll follow this up in a future post because I notice it happening more and more often in the theatre too but in the meantime, let’s all try harder to actually get to where we say we’ll go and if it’s not possible or you can’t be bothered to stop by after all, let the host know and they’ll know to think twice about inviting you again. I know I have to get better at the early declines because Sam and I are usually triple-booked and sometimes it is simply impossible to be everywhere. But I have to say, we get to most things, even if it’s just to drop in, make an appearance and wish the host well before we’re due to be somewhere else. You will have noticed that last week, we SPLIT UP so we could honour our RSVPs to both La Boite AND ACPA opening nights.

A simple RSVP or an early apology is a show of good manners and genuine respect for the person or company hosting the event. Don’t you think?

The other thing I will say about our evening with Soapbox Theatre Productions is that it was delightful! These kids know how to put on a show, y’all! I hope this season sells out because Matt Ryan has written an awesome script that is so funny and surprising you’ll want to go back and see it a second time WITH FRIENDS! If you’re on the Other Coast, as we are, this is one to make the effort for. Take the trip, stay the night somewhere (or drive home at a ridiculous hour as we often do because there is school or gymnastics or swimming or a coffee date or a champagne breakfast or something the next morning that we are committed to), and enjoy an evening with this dynamo young company and their stellar production of Chasing the Whale.

What’s that? You didn’t know Soapbox Theatre Productions were there, on the Gold Coast?

Soapbox have in the past, been sticklers for the classics with their main stage productions featuring Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Taming of the Shrew and more recently, Louis Nowra’s Cosi also staged at The Arts Centre Gold Coast.  This year, they’re trying something new.

So who is this Matthew Ryan fellow, and why are Gold Coast audiences being encouraged to chase a whale?

Chasing the Whale (originally titled The Dance of Jeremiah) made its premiere in 2005 with Brisbane’s La Boite Theatre Company starring Hayden Spencer.  Soapbox will be the first production company to stage this revised version of the popular Queensland play that bagged several awards including 2005 winner of Queensland Theatre Company’s 2000 George Landen Dann Award and was heavily nominated all round for the 2005 Matilda Awards after its La Boite Season.

Ryan is certainly the writer in demand; his play The Harbinger (which he also directed) with The Dead Puppets Society enjoyed a highly successful season at La Boite Indie, Boy Girl Wallwhich he co wrote (and directed) has recently wrapped a national tour, while The Queensland Theatre Company staged his latest work, Kellyin September.

So how does this multi talented artist feel about a Gold Coast Company taking on his work?

“It’s been a wonderful opportunity re-writing Chasing the Whale for Soapbox and I can’t wait to see them premiere the new ideas and content” says Ryan.  “I started out performing at Spotlight Theatre, Gold Coast Little Theatre and Javeenbah Theatre. The wonderful Gold Coast audiences and theatre-makers taught me my most valuable lessons about the stage and I can’t wait for them to see this play. This is a story about the pressure to succeed, set in a city on the ocean. Who could understand that better than the GC?”

So who’s in it, you ask?

Stephen Hirst

Sarah Kennedy

Garth Ledwidge

James Odenbreit

Kim Stewart

When is it?

Date: 1-4 and 6-10 November

Time: 7:30pm (Sundays 5:00pm)

Where is it all happening?

Venue: The Space, The Arts Centre Gold Coast

Will we be reviewing it?

Of course! But we’re unable to attend on opening night (Soapbox know because we’ve already told them), so we’re sending Craig and Lisa. Keep an eye out for their review after opening night tomorrow night! Will you be there?

Bookings: 07 5588 4000





Queensland Theatre Company

QPAC Cremorne Theatre

15th September – 20th October 2012


Reviewed by Matty Gharakhanian


Almost all of the facts in the script surrounding Ned Kelly are as true as possible. But the real history is a bit murky anyway. Keep in mind Ned was a notorious liar, mainly because most of what we have him on record as saying he was saying to the police – whom he had no qualms in lying to. And the police at that time would often lie to make themselves look better so no one really knows for sure. My goal with Ned is simply to capture the spirit of the man. To make audiences feel they’re really in the room with him. I don’t think anyone’s successfully done that yet.

The real Dan Kelly is something of a mysterious figure and there isn’t a lot of information about him in the history books. He tends to pop up in the confrontations, completely fail to do what is asked of him and Ned then has fix things. I used this idea as a building block to create the fictional character but took a lot more artistic license with him than Ned. Dan carries more of the folklore side of the story.

Do I think Dan escaped? I think it’s a fifty-fifty call. There are eye-witnesses that say he died. And there are eye-witnesses that saw Dan in the weeks after Glenrowan, heading for Queensland. There’s a grave with an unrecognizable body in it in Greta. And there are reports of a man named James Ryan out at Ipswich who claimed to be Dan and told stories about The Kelly Gang that no one else should know. I like the uncertainty of it all. It’s ripe geography for fiction. Matthew Ryan



“Shotguns and body bags.”


Directed by Todd Macdonald, Matthew Ryan’s Kelly is a brilliant re-telling of Ned Kelly’s story, played out in the outlaw’s final moments. Kelly sits in a small jail cell, drunk and feeling sorry for himself until his brother visits and their shady past comes back to haunt them.

Simone Romaniuk’s set, lit by Ben Hughes, consists of a raised square platform with a dangling cage, ceiling and a tiny bed to represent a basic jail cell.  Nothing more was needed.  Why?  The entire show was one scene.  A single 90-minute scene with rapid lines, witty repartee and a cohesive story.  Sounds boring?  Are you asking, “How could this possibly remain entertaining for that long?”  Fear not, for not a dull moment was had.  Kelly integrates fact and rumour, such as Dan Kelly’s death and homosexuality, the family history and their many run-ins with and harassment at the hands of the law.

The acoustics are exceptional and Guy Webster’s eerie soundscape complement the show and its vibe. Having a limited and minimalistic stage, the cast show us that they don’t need fancy props or an elaborate set design to tell a story.  All that is needed is a little imagination and the ability to enjoy being taken on a journey through the words of less than a handful of talented actors. Before you know it, the stage is a ghostly replica of a grimy old jail cell containing a man about to be executed.



“It’s your spirit they’re after.”


Now, if anyone reading this is sceptical about another story on Ned Kelly and the Kelly clan, they should feel free to leave said scepticism at the door.  For an old tale, this new spin on the Kelly story is nothing but fresh.  Matthew Ryan’s script is the key to this, injecting occasional humour into a play that boasts witty dialogue and a fluid, considered story.


I’m mostly known for my comedy so I think this one is going to be a shock for some people. My work tends to be very story driven. I’m very structured. I’m much more interested in the action of a piece and what’s happening between the characters than I am in any grand political explorations. I tend to just let that stuff bubble up gently. Matthew Ryan


Hugh Parker plays the role of the spiteful prison guard exceptionally well and Steven Rooke (Ned) and Leon Cain (Dan) are outstanding. Dare I say, Cain as Dan stole the show.  This production delves into the story of the weaker, lesser-known Kelly who lives in Ned’s shadow. The actors play their roles superbly, with such strong conviction.  Some throwaway lines have us chuckling while other lines leave us stunned into silence.  Their performances are intense and raw and their anger palpable and believable. Their booming voices and confident, no-holds-barred performances grasp the audience’s attention and wouldn’t let go.  Rooke is the bleary-eyed and angry imprisoned man, accepting of his fate. Cain is powerful as the complex, gutless and conflicted brother, posing as a priest and asking for forgiveness and a blessing (something that was not easy to ask for, given the circumstances).



“You came to ask a dead man for the right to live.”


Dan and Ned play the proverbial tug of war between their recollections of past events as well as who was in the right or wrong and who held the moral high ground.  They take family dysfunction to a whole new level.  Problems start seeping through the cracks in their relationship as one big issue is alluded to early on. Eventually, through conversation and re-enactments, we are taken through various moments and past events until finally, we come full circle, back to the original problem and discover the unholy truth of what happened.


The banter between Ned and Dan is based on Irish rhythms of conversation. Their parents were Irish immigrants and while there is some debate as to whether Ned himself had an Irish accent, I really wanted to capture that amazing lyrical quality of the speech patterns – if not in the actual words then at least in the pacing and timing. It seems to be in my own blood because once they started talking in that rhythm I couldn’t shut them up. Matthew Ryan


Kelly is a 90-minute roller coaster ride in a jail cell and every Australian should take it.