Review: Frankenstein – Fractal Theatre at Brisbane Arts Theatre

Images: Geoff Squires

Frankenstein, written at the start of the 19th century, has taken deep root in our culture. It’s a sprawling, gothic-romantic novel, considered by some to be the first science-fiction story. In a way it sits at the door of contemporary literature and points the way to the genres we now take for granted.

It’s a challenging novel to read, and its cinematic and theatrical spin-offs are legion as artists across the decades, fascinated by its subject matter, have attempted to set their own stamp upon it. Millions of words and perhaps as many hours have been devoted to this book, written by the 19 year old Mary Shelley during one rainy summer holiday in Geneva, and in response to a competition amongst her friends, including Byron and her husband to be, Percy Shelley, to see who could write the best horror story. Mary won that bet.

The latest to attempt to tame the beast is independent Fractal Theatre’s adaptation and production for the stage at Brisbane Arts Theatre. No matter the subject they tackle you know you are going to be provoked by Fractal. Their work doesn’t shy away from the intellectually difficult or the theatrically ambitious and Brenna Lee Cooney’s adaptation and direction of Frankenstein is no exception.

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Where’s a young triple-threat to go?

A few weeks back I found myself in front of a lot of the Harvest Rain interns at one of their regular Friday Behind the Red Curtain seminar sessions. On the panel (chaired by Artistic Director of HR, Tim O’Connor) were three other actors: Steven Tandy, Bryan Probets, and Cameron Hurry.  As you’d expect, the students’ questions and subsequent discussion revolved around the business of acting.

One of the questions put to us was whether, after training, taking work in an amateur theatre production would mean an actor would not be ‘taken seriously.‘  Was there, in fact, a stigma attached to doing amateur theatre? The response to the query was an emphatic ‘No,’ from all of us – with the caveat that an actor needs to seek out work with the best people – especially when getting started. This is what we actually said:

By the way, the Harvest Rain Behind the Red Curtain sessions are good value! Check out the others on their site. But, back to the question …

Each of the actor-panellists at the session had either begun their stage careers in amateur theatre or have returned there from time to time – for various reasons. Bryan speaks most eloquently in the video above about his experience, as do Steven and Cameron. As far as I was concerned, there was no local training when I left school, and the newly-created NIDA was barely a blip on anyone’s radar. I worked with Brisbane Arts Theatre for a few years before going on to train in London. The time I spent at BAT was invaluable to me; watching other, more experienced actors at work focussed my thinking, whilst spending hours and hours travelling by bus and tram to and from Petrie Terrace to Sandgate during the week and at weekends taught me how demanding the work could be. It also hardened my determination to go on. Continue reading Where’s a young triple-threat to go?