Review: As You Like It – La Boite Theatre Company at The Roundhouse

Main Image: Bryan Probets (Touchstone) | Images: Al Caeiro

David Berthold is quickly setting up a tradition for La Boite: opening a season with a Shakespeare, directed by the Artistic Director himself. As You Like It was preceded by Hamlet (2010) and Julius Caesar (2011), in which Berthold proved he could bend the material to his will, creating sexy and contemporary productions. Make no mistake, As You Like It has a completely different feel, and is a more cohesive production than its La Boite forefathers. Indeed, it feels as though Berthold is infinitely more comfortable in the comedy of Shakespeare, and the result is superb production.

Helen Howard - Rosalind

As You Like It centres mainly around the love quest of Rosalind (Helen Howard), the daughter of a Duke who has been usurped. Rosalind is banished from the new Duke’s court and takes her cousin Celia (Helen Cassidy) and the court’s jester (Bryan Probets) with her. In order to escape persecution Rosalind disguises herself as a man, and leads her band of exiles through the Forest of Arden in an attempt to find her exiled father (Kate Wilson). But the real spice of the plot lies in Orlando (Thomas Larkin) who is forced to flee the court when he is rejected by his older brother Oliver (Luke Cadden) and then upsets the fascist usurper Duke (Hayden Spencer) by challenging and defeating his wrestler, Charles (Thomas Carney). But before he flees, Orlando and Rosalind fall in love, only to be reunited once again in the Forest of Arden, but with Rosalind in a man’s disguise. Commence Shakespearean gender-bending comedy.

The show is stolen, in my opinion, by an absolutely spell-binding design. Renee Mulder’s costumes and set are absolutely breath-taking.

This is theatre design at its very best, peppered with all sorts of tricks and surprises that the audience never see coming … it’s a spectacular achievement.

Mulder’s work is accompanied by sublime music and sound from Guy Webster, and incredibly clever lighting from David Walters. Together, the trio create a forest of Arden that is warm and inviting. The evocation of a campfire makes the potentially cold La Boite theatre feel small and intimate. The gypsy aesthetic of the the exiled Duke and his kingdom has the appeal of a charming, cleaner Woodford Folk Festival. It’s a spectacular achievement. Continue reading “Review: As You Like It – La Boite Theatre Company at The Roundhouse”

Dear Reader …

I wanted to share an email I wrote to a reader a while back in response to an inquiry that related to the Groundling Awards’ eligibility criteria. My correspondent had asked how Greenroom differentiated between ‘professional and independent, and community/amateur, and student theatre.’ I was a little surprised by the question – my fault, I suppose, for assuming that everyone would know. It actually raised some ongoing issues that we’ve mentioned here before. This is part of what I wrote in response:

I think the differentiation is pretty well understood in the theatre industry. Aside from the aspirational standards inherent in the word ‘professional,’ there have been many and ongoing discussions on what differentiates ‘professional’ (or what I have heard called ‘mainstage’ theatre by some – at least here in Australia) from ‘independent’ theatre. The terminology can get in the way at times.

I queried a critic friend of mine in Sydney recently on the use of the differentiating terms ‘mainstage’ and ‘independent’ (both understood as professional) by the judging panel as they were then being applied to the Sydney Theatre Awards. The response: ‘ Tricky, but full-time v part-time.’ However, both professional/mainstage theatres and the independents have a few things in common, and this is what I understand differentiates them from amateur, community, or student theatre. This understanding is applied to the Groundling Awards.

Full-time professional (commercial or non-profit) theatres and the (mostly) part-time independent theatres offer monetary remuneration to their personnel. This remuneration and/or other support may be based on industrial award wage scales or, perhaps, another financial understanding: stipend, fee, co-operative arrangement (profit-share), or a MEAA-sanctioned showcase agreement for unwaged artists. All are negotiated via a letter of agreement or contract – with or without an agent. Other support for independent theatres may come in the form of professional assistance from an auspicing or umbrella arts organisation e.g., marketing and/or training for staff, mentoring of personnel, provision of resources and so on. Essentially, though, the producers of these individual companies enter into financial arrangements with those they hire for productions – actors, directors, designers, technicians and so on.

Another understanding is that the artists and creatives involved in professional and independent theatre have usually been trained and, (very importantly it seems to me), they assert their status or ‘profess’ their first calling as ‘artist,’ ‘actor,’ ‘writer,’ ‘theatre worker,’ ‘designer,’ ‘technician,’ and so on. Most, in my experience, also claim a union affiliation with MEAA or some other industry-related union.

In addition, professional practitioners are recognised amongst the theatre community. You’ve probably heard the terms ’emerging,’ ‘mid-career,’ ‘senior artist,’ and so on in the last few years. This is just part of the way the industry recognises its own. Here in Australia, and elsewhere, the theatre labour market is saturated, and there are never enough jobs to go around. Whilst the kinds of work available for Australian theatre artists have increased in the past 10 years or so, most still have to work outside the theatre or multi-skill within the industry. However, it is understood that, in the vast majority of cases, professional artists and creatives in this and in many other countries are freelancers. Whatever the remuneration, it’s a part-time job but a full-time profession.

On the other hand amateur or community theatres do not enter into considerations of remuneration for their practitioners unless, of course, they hire a director or designer or other professional person for the production. I am aware that many amateur companies do this via their own funds or a government grant, for example, as a way of developing standards within their groups. However, very few people involved in an amateur or community production are paid. The exception would, I think, prove the rule.

Whilst some who take part in amateur and community theatre might like to be professional artists they usually don’t claim that status. Most would ‘profess’ their calling otherwise on a tax return or census or other official form. As to the professional standards that most groups aim for, the fact is that amateur theatre is hobbyist not a profession however good the work can be – and some of it is very good indeed. Many get involved to gain training and experience, but I would suggest that most do it for the sheer joy of being part of a theatre production. The word ‘amateur’ means ‘lover of,’ after all.

Student theatre is educational, and the ‘remuneration’ received by students comes in the form of course credit. Their profession is ‘student’ – for the time being. Of course, many staff involved in student theatre are professional artists hired on a part-time or sessional basis to teach or direct. However, the production itself – again, standards aside – is not considered to be professional by the industry.

We had a good conversation via email and finished with a telephone conversation because sometimes you just have to chat for real. I was, of course, delighted that a reader cared enough to contact me and to discuss the matter, and I finished by thanking him for his thoughts on the matter.

Whilst I had blithely indicated in my response that I thought the difference was pretty well understood within the industry, it turns out that it’s not all that clear – at least to those I spoke with – and it’s the word ‘independent’ that’s the source of confusion.

In the weeks that followed I discussed it with colleagues in the industry. It seems the line dividing ‘independent’ from ‘amateur’ tends to move a bit, at least, this is the impression I got from my original correspondent who felt the term was often used when ‘amateur’ was the reality. Most have no doubt that independent or indie theatre is, as one put it, ‘a sub-set of professional theatre.’ It is, however, by no means as clear as I had assumed.

If you’ve read this far I’d love to hear what you think. Greenroom is putting a survey out to get some feedback on some of the matters raised during the conversation.

To reward a lucky person who complete the survey, we’ll be giving away one free Workshop Masterclass for the Rude Mechanics who are appearing as part of the World Theatre Festival at the Brisbane Powerhouse.

The workshop is on Saturday February 25th so the workshop attendee would need to be free on that day. We’ll open the survey after lunch today (Wednesday) and close it on Sunday at 6pm. Please spread the survey link among your own networks. The selection of the winner will be random.

You will be able to access the survey later today (Wednesday) either here or on Greenroom’s Facebook page. If you haven’t already liked us over there, we’d really like that! Just click the big blue button on the home page.


2011 Groundlings: the winners!

Here’s Greenroom’s annual touch of love on Valentine’s Day.
Warmest congratulations to the following winners of the 2011 Groundling Awards for Queensland Theatre.
Thank you to all those who nominated and those who voted in the second year of the state’s people’s choice awards.
Athough there are no shiny trophies, certificates, or galas where you can applaud and shout, ‘Hoorah!’ all nominees can all bask in the knowledge that your work is admired and respected by your audiences. Well done!
Greenroom will follow up soon with another post on some intriguing facts and figures we’ve gathered during the Groundlings nomination and voting process. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook to keep posted.
Thank you to Claire Christian, Youth Director Empire Theatre Toowoomba for her assistance in scrutinising the results.



2011 Groundling Awards

Outstanding Contribution by an Actor: Bryan Probets – body of Work including Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness (La Boite Theatre Company); Animal Farm (shake and stir theatre company) Pygmalion (QTC)

Outstanding Contribution by an Actress: Nelle LeeAnimal Farm (shake and stir theatre company)

Outstanding Contribution by a Director: Steven Mitchell Wright – The Hamlet Apocalypse (The Danger Ensemble/La Boite Indie)

Outstanding Contribution to Set Design: Josh McIntosh – body of work including Animal Farm (shake and stir theatre company)

Outstanding Contribution to Costume Design: Josh McIntosh – body of work including Aladdin (Harvest Rain Theatre Company) and Animal Farm (shake and stir theatre company)

Outstanding Contribution to Lighting Design: Ben Hughes – body of work including Orphans and Fractions (QTC) The Hamlet Apocalypse (The Danger Ensemble/La Boite Indie), and Studio Shorts (JUTE).

Outstanding Contribution to Sound Design or Composition: Guy Webster body of work including Water Wars (Umber Productions/La Boite Indie and Empire Theatre Projects Company) Animal Farm (shake and stir theatre company), and Ruben Guthrie (La Boite Theatre Company).

Outstanding Contribution to Multimedia Design: Dead Puppet Society with The Harbinger (Dead Puppet Society/La Boite Indie)

Outstanding Contribution to Innovative Theatre Practice: Steven Mitchell Wright & The Danger Ensemble for pushing performance and theatrical boundaries

Best New Play in an Inaugural Queensland Season: Animal Farm by George Orwell, adapted  by Nick Skubij (shake and stir theatre company)

Best Production: The Hamlet Apocalypse – The Danger Ensemble/La Boite Indie

Best Musical Theatre Production: Cabaret – Zen Zen Zo

Best Co-Production: Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness – La Boite Theatre Company and STC

Outstanding Contribution to Queensland theatre: Tim O’Connor & Harvest Rain Theatre Company for the company’s contribution to the development of a sustainable independent theatre model (Brisbane)

World Theatre Festival: the first of the year for Brisbane

Brisbane’s World Theatre Festival is 3 years old this year. It’s back bigger than ever at the city’s (arguably) coolest arts venue, the Brisbane Powerhouse on the river at New Farm.

The earlier, cheekier acronym WTF! has gone, but the change of name is probably a good thing. The Festival has a different feel this year. It’s bigger – due to an injection in 2011 of support from the Grahame Wood Foundation and the Queensland Government (Arts Queensland and Events Queensland). The program is also more diverse and even more interesting in our opinion. If Artistic Director Andrew Ross has his way, then the bringing together of international and Australian artists in Brisbane will make for a terrific celebration. It will also kick off the 2012 theatre season in Brisbane.

Mr Ross told me he hopes that local artists will gain something that he gained in Perth in his formative years, ” … a sense of what is possible here and an occasional moment of recognition of our own uniqueness.”  The Festival organisers believe it’s going to be a chance for the city to get involved in theatre and to see the world from a different angle.

Coming from Perth I saw and experienced the way the regular exposure to International theatre through the Perth Festival stimulated and influenced local theatre practice.

I hope World Theatre Festival draws from both of those personal experiences and creates a theatre festival that is right for the here and now.”

Between 16-26 February Brisbane will be able to take in some of the best independent theatre hand-picked by Ross and colleagues from Italy, Belarus, India, the US, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia, and join in forums and masterclasses. There’s also a new Festival Lounge with free live music and – wait for it – Wi Fi. Expect lots of social media comment. Twitter hashtag? #wtf2012 maybe?

I asked Andrew whether there was a binding theme to this year’s Festival. “I hope that the diversity of authentic voices amounts to a loose unity with diversity. This year, a level of social political engagement seems to pervade many of the works.”

And how does he choose what appears? How do you program a world theatre festival?

“Along with my colleagues I travel both within and outside of Australia. I am on the internet every day monitoring theatre in many parts of the world and constantly in discussions with other theatre producers. I then endeavour to choose work which represents many strands of contemporary practice. It is not a festival about any preferred theatre form or genre. I look at work and I listen for authentic voices and try to eschew work that is manufactured with the international market in mind.”

Now, that’s a job I’d like!

He goes on:

“I think one thing this year’s festival does well is provide everyone with something to suit their interests. Technology enthusiasts will love Il Pixel Rosso’s And the Birds Fell from the Sky – where two audience members wear video goggles and MP3 players and experience a completely different universe.

“Where We Once Belonged, a Samoan coming-of-age story told by New Zealand’s Pacific Institute of Performing Arts graduates will have musical theatre fans enthralled with its authentic Pacific singing and dancing entwined with serious drama.

“Drama enthusiasts will love Ibsen’s The Lady from The Sea, reimagined with spectacular visuals by India’s Abhinaya Theatre Company in a new collaboration with Brisbane band Topology.

“And anyone who saw Belarus Free Theatre’s visit in 2009 will need to see their new show Discover Love – a beautiful love story and a hard look at political ‘disappearances’ around the world.”

Also heading to Brisbane are Italy’s Motus Theatre with their stripped back version of Sophocles Antigone in Too Late! (Antigone) Contest #2 and the Rude Mechanics from Texas, US. who bring the most dangerous approach to acting back from the 70s in The Method Gun.

Australia is represented by Brisbane Indie champions The Escapists with Elephant Gun – an inventive and clever play using puppets, dance and projections. Team Mess blurs the line between reality and fantasy in This Is It! , a show where the audience take on the role as the press at a movie launch – complete with probing questions on how the movie This Is It! was made.

In addition to these shows World Theatre Festival 2012 presents Scratch – six new works in development by Australian artists where audiences can see how theatre comes to life.

Audiences are also encouraged to take part in industry masterclasses, have their opinions heard during the In Conversation discussion series and relax in the Festival Lounge. It will be open all hours with free live music, and will be the perfect place to relax between shows, discuss what you’ve just seen or meet with friends during the festival.

And, if you’ve read this far (and we thank you for it) watch out for a Greenroom give away in the next few days courtesy of the Powerhouse and the World Theatre Festival. It’s a free day-long, masterclass with the Rude Mechanics from Texas. You’d like that, right? You need to be available on Saturday 25th February.

To find out more you need to follow us on Twitter or Facebook. We’re social that way.



2011 Groundling Awards: Nominees

Voting is now open in the 2011 Groundling Awards. Thanks to the many hundreds of you who sent in your nominations since the start of January. The people have spoken!

Click on this hotlink to register your vote on the ballot paper

VOTING WILL CLOSE at 5pm on Friday, 10th February.

First up, a couple of things to note: you may vote only once and, in the interests of fair play and to avoid ballot crashing or spamming, multiple, identical votes from the same IPA address will be disqualified.

Voting will close at 5pm on Friday, 10th February.

Here are the nominees in each category for your consideration. Hot links on nominees’ names will take you to their webpage or related materials for further information.

2011 Categories:

Outstanding Contribution by an Actor

Leon Cain (Orphans – QTC)
Bryan Probets (Body of Work including Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness- La Boite; Animal Farm – Shake and Stir; Pygmalion – QTC)
Lucas Stibbard (restaged season of boy girl wall – La Boite)

Outstanding Contribution by an Actress

Melanie Zanetti (Pygmalion – QTC)
Amy Ingram (Rabbit: the good room – Metro Arts)
Nelle Lee (Animal Farm – shake and stir theatre company)

Outstanding Contribution by a Director

Steven Mitchell Wright (The Hamlet Apocalypse for The Danger Ensemble/La Boite Indie)
Tim O’Connor (JC Superstar for Harvest Rain Theatre Company)
Shaun Charles (Water Wars for Umber Productions/La Boite Indie)
Michael Futcher (Animal Farm for Shake and Stir)

Outstanding Contribution to Set Design

Josh McIntosh (Body of work including Animal Farm)
Penelope Challen (Water Wars)
Simone Romaniuk (Fractions)

Outstanding Contribution to Costume Design

Romance Was Born (Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness)
Josh McIntosh (Body of work including Aladdin and Animal Farm)
Stephen Curtis (Pygmalion)

Outstanding Contribution to Lighting Design

David Walters (Body of Work and innovation in Water Wars for sustainable lighting practices)
Jason Glenwright (Body of Work including Ruben GuthrieAnimal Farm)
Ben Hughes (Body of Work including OrphansFractionsThe Hamlet ApocalypseStudio Shorts JUTE)

Outstanding Contribution to Sound Design or Composition

Guy Webster (Body of Work including Water WarsAnimal FarmRuben Guthrie)
Dane Alexander (The Hamlet Apocalypse)

Outstanding Contribution to Multimedia Design

Freddy Komp (Body of work including Water WarsEmpire Burning)
Dead Puppet Society  (The Harbinger)

Outstanding Contribution to Innovative Theatre Practice

Paul Osuch and Anywhere Theatre Festival for creating an imaginative infrastructure for theatre-making
Umber Productions and its contribution to sustainable theatre practice through the production of Water Wars
Steven Mitchell Wright and the Danger Ensemble for pushing performance and theatrical boundaries

Best New Play in an Inaugural Queensland Season

Water Wars by Elaine Acworth – Umber Productions/La Boite Indie/Empire Projects Company
Animal Farm  by George Orwell, adapted  by Nick Skubij (shake and stir theatre company)
Fractions by Marcel Dorney – Queensland Theatre Company

Best Production

The Hamlet Apocalypse – The Danger Ensemble/La Boite Indie
Animal Farm – shake and stir
Water Wars – Umber Productions/La Boite Indie

Best Musical Theatre Production

Cabaret – Zen Zen Zo
Spring Awakening – Oscar Theatre Company
Jesus Christ Superstar – (return season) Harvest Rain Theatre Company

Best Co-Production

Faustus (QTC and Bell Shakespeare)
Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness (La Boite and STC)
No Man’s Land (QTC and STC)

Outstanding Contribution to Queensland theatre

Brendan O’Connor and Terri Brabon (Producers) for the development of the long-running project Shakespeare Under the Stars (Townsville)
Julie Whiting (Founder and Musical Director Blue Fish Theatrical) for leadership in the development of musical theatre training (Brisbane)
Tim O’Connor (Artistic Director) and Harvest Rain Theatre Company for the company’s contribution to the development of a sustainable independent theatre model (Brisbane)