Category Archives: Theatre Companies

Theatre Junkies welcomes Entertainment Blue Mountains!

Theatre Junkies is pleased to welcome our newest partner Theatre Company, Entertainment Blue Mountains. All future posts from, or relating to, Entertainment Blue Mountains will be easily located by their new category listing on the left hand menu of this site. You will also find the banner add and link for Entertainment Blue Mountains on our Theatre Companies page.

We look forward to helping Entertainment Blue Mountains promote their future theatrical productions!

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Review: Hotel Hibiscus, produced by Epicentre Theatre Company.

By Cameron Malcher

Before you read the rest of this review, click here and buy a ticket to one of the remaining shows of Hotel Hibiscus.

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Produced by Epicentre Theatre Co, ‘Hotel Hibiscus’ is a play that taps into the Australian theatre tradition of exploring uncomfortable and unspoken issues through storytelling. In style and presentation, it is an old school drama, as the characters, their motivations and secrets get peeled away layer by layer, creating a building tension as revelation after revelation reveal the turbulent intrigue bubbling away underneath a calm facade.

The story is a dramatisation of Australia’s involvement in the six-year ‘dirty war’ on Bougainville, fictionalised in the play as the island of Hibiscus. The story centres around Colonel Baulkham, an Australian diplomat responsible for overseeing the signing of a peace treaty between the local army and a group of rebel fighters.
The rebels are fighting both the army and the Mantis mining company that has been poisoning the land with their mining operations. Like Hibiscus Island, Mantis is a fictional representation of the very real Rio Tinto.

This play shines a spotlight on the unpleasant underside of our society, and the often unacknowledged human cost of the ways that governments and corporations go about the business of securing resources to support our western lifestyle. It was written by Robert Cockburn who, as a journalist, reported on the ‘dirty war’ some 20 years ago, and who claims in the programme that this play has sat dormant for 15 years following an initial workshopping process. Cockburn offers no pretence about the political agenda of this play, pointing the finger at global silence and inaction over similar events in Syria, and the fact that the events that inspired this story have only recently been given the chance for a hearing of court under charges of genocide and war crimes. As such, each of the characters of this play has a distinct story to tell and represents a different player in the war.

As Colonel Christopher Baulkham, Dominic McDonald delivers another powerful performance, coming from his recent stint as Prospero in the Sydney Fringe’s Steampunk version of ‘The Tempest’, this time portraying the man who represents Australia’s less-than-honest interests in the war. Opposite him is Sopa Enri as Major Leon Ramara, the brutal leader of the local armed forces whose violent suppression of the rebels is spoken of with dread. In Enri’s hands, Major Ramara is a figure of menace and unpredictable violence. Caught between them is Sampson Makali, played by Mandela Mathia, the human face of the victims of the war, whose murder opens the show and is the mystery around which the story is built. Also of note is Dr. Patty Carmichael, played ably by Amanda Jermyn, who, in some ways, comes to represent our collective silence on these issues.

Don’t go to see this play expecting a perfectly polished production. It isn’t, and some aspects of the production require a pretty active suspension of disbelief.

Don’t go to see this play expecting to see flawless storytelling. While a powerful story told through believable characters, There is still some room for further workshopping and revision.

Don’t go to see this play expecting a night of passive entertainment. If you understand the story and the implications of the events on stage, you will likely leave the theatre feeling very confronted.

Do, however, go and see this play to see an original and powerful Australian work with a story and message that casts a questioning light not only on the specifics of the Bougainville war, but on the many issues of government, corporate and societal complicity in mass-violence that are very much a part of the world we live in today, and on the victims of that violence who too often go unnamed and unremembered.

Epicentre Theatre Company are to be congratulated for bringing this play to the stage for the first time, and I sincerely hope that this play has a long future ahead of it.

There are four shows of ‘Hotel Hibiscus’ remaining from 25 to 27 October, at the Zenith Theatre in Chatswood. Go and see it.

Review: Disney’s High School Musical by BTC

By Cameron Malcher

A tale of two worlds: Disney’s High School Musical by Blacktown Theatre Group

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Attending the opening night of Blacktown Theatre Company’s production of High School Musical was an experience that reminded me of why I love community theatre, and ultimately why this site exists. Every professional arts or entertainment industry needs community support to keep it afloat, and to help train the next generation of professionals coming through. Where would the NRL be without thousands of kids dedicating their weekends to club games? Where would professional theatre and entertainment be without community groups giving younger performers a chance to experience the highs and lows of live performance? BTC’s High School Musical is a production that reminded me of just how important community support is to a thriving arts industry.

The production had its hits and misses. Among the positive aspects of this show were some simple yet effective choreography, an impressive consistency of costumes and a fairly minimalist approach to set design that provided a springboard for the imagination without being overbearing.

The biggest highlight for me was the sight of an enthusiastic younger cast getting to test their mettle in the realm of community theatre. While Tyler Hoggard brought a great sense of quirky charisma to the male lead role of Troy Bolton, and Ebony Black showed her vocal talents as Gabriella Montez, among a broad spectrum of ability and talent on display in the supporting cast there were some stand out performers; Justin McCormick as Jack Scott and Bernadette Glynn as Kelsi Nielsen supplied fun comic support throughout the show, while Jasper Newstead as Ms Darbus incited roars of laughter from the crowd.

Seeing a group of teenagers and young adults on stage playing teenagers and young adults reminded me of just how often we see adult performers in their 30s and 40s playing younger roles, which usually guarantees a more polished performance, but raises the question of where and how younger people are expected to gain any significant performance experience in leading roles if companies like BTC don’t provide opportunities like this. Speaking to members of the company after the show I found out that this show had drawn in performers from a wider geographic area than they were used to, with only 4 out of 40 cast members having worked with the company before. This suggests that there is a body of young performers out there looking for such opportunities, and I think supporting productions like this one are a great way to help build up future performers.

Where this production noticeably fell down was in the sound and lighting, which were the two aspects of the production contracted out to ‘professional’ companies. It is a common conundrum for community theatre groups that larger scale productions require more lighting and audio amplification and in the interests of protecting their expensive equipment, hire companies will usually insist on one of their technicians being on hand to handle/operate the equipment during the show. This can be a big expense to community companies, easily running into the thousands of dollars and representing half or more of the total production budget of a show (speaking from my own experience, not from any inside knowledge of BTC). But when performers are left in the dark by lighting cues that are frequently missed, or audio feeds are not being mixed to create a balanced sound (assuming that the singer’s microphones are even turned on in the first place!), it certainly casts a questioning light on the divide between concepts of ‘professional’ and ‘amateur’ in the theatre world. Things came together more effectively for the second act, and I expect they will continue to improve rapidly over the opening weekend, but it’s a real shame that the most amateur thing about the show I saw tonight was in the domain of the professional technicians involved.

Overall, this production is not only a fun staging of a well-known Disney property, but a great effort from BTC to support and develop younger performers in the Western Sydney area.

The show is running for one more week, with full details available at www.blacktowntheatreco.com.

Theatre Junkies welcomes Epicentre Theatre Company

Theatre Junkies would like to welcome Epicentre Theatre Company, who join Blacktown Theatre Company as the second group to partner with Theatre Junkies for reciprocal advertising and promotional support.

Links for both of these companies can be found in the ‘Theatre Companies’ page (find the permanent link above our banner graphic) and you can find all advertisements relevant to each company by clicking on the respective company name in the categories menu on the left of the page.

Thanks again to the committees of these companies for coming on board and helping to build Theatre Junkies as an advertising and media site for community theatre groups.

If you are part of a community theatre company that would benefit from increase exposure on Theatre Junkies, click the advertising and reviews link at the top of the page, or email enquiries to cameron@theatrejunkiesaustralia.com.

Disney’s HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL by Blacktown Theatre Company

Blacktown RSL Proudly Presents:
DISNEY’S HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL ONSTAGE
A Blacktown Theatre Company Production

Get ya head in the game and come out to Blacktown to see this energetic spectacular!

Performance Dates:

September
Friday 28th – 8pm
Saturday 29th – 2pm & 8pm
Sunday 30th – 2pm

October
Wednesday 3rd – 8pm
Friday 5th – 8pm
Saturday 6th – 2pm & 8pm

Venue:
Fifth Avenue Theatre
Blacktown Boys and Girls High Schools
Fifth Avenue, Blacktown NSW 2148

Tickets:
Adult $30.00
Concession $25.00

Online Bookings:
https://btco.iwannaticket.com.au

Phone Bookings:
John 0432 477 777

WORLD PREMIERE: THE HOTEL HIBISCUS BY ROBERT COCKBURN ZENITH THEATRE, CHATSWOOD 19-27 OCTOBER

WORLD PREMIERE: THE HOTEL HIBISCUS BY ROBERT COCKBURN ZENITH THEATRE, CHATSWOOD 19-27 OCTOBER

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Who would believe that the Australian Government had an involvement in the death of 15,000 innocent people? Robert Cockburn’s The Hotel Hibiscus is an Australian political thriller that questions our complicity and silence in a war crime that occurred just 20 years ago.

Sent secretly to a Pacific island off Papua New Guinea to run a dirty war for an Australian gold mine, Colonel Chris Baulkham falls in love with Dr Patty Carmichael, a 30 year-old academic woman whom he fools into providing his cover.

As Patty clears up her late father’s hotel, the Colonel is cleaning up the war crimes of his foreign minister’s failed war. Colonel Baulkham plays the puppeteer, juggling his and Patty’s worlds as she and her staff risk their lives unknowingly in aid of his work. Politics becomes dangerously personal and the strings begin to tangle as Patty uncovers the inconceivable truth.

The play was inspired by conflict in the 1990s surrounding the control of an Australian mine on Papua New Guinea’s Bougainville Island, in which an astonishing 15,000 civilians – or nearly 10% of the population – were killed. By uncovering the misuse of soldiers for political and corporate greed, Cockburn’s work reveals how decent people can become complicit in crimes against humanity.

Robert Cockburn reported on this conflict for The Times, the BBC, the ABC and to Amnesty International after investigating the army’s murder of a young bus driver. Hauntingly, within weeks of Epicentre’s decision to perform the play, the United States Supreme Court gave survivors of the conflict in Bougainville permission to bring an unprecedented action for ‘genocide’ and ‘crimes against humanity’ against mining giant Rio Tinto Zinc.

As The Hotel Hibiscus goes on stage, difficult questions are being asked of RTZ and those in power in Australia who turned a blind eye to the people of Bougainville, choosing to stay silent while thousands died.

Hotel Hibiscus is directed by Greg Friend and stars Dominic McDonald, Amanda Jermyn, Billy McPherson, Colin Huxley, Sopa Enari, Charlotte Hazzard and Sudanese refugee Mandela Mathia in his stage debut.

Epicentre Theatre Company presents
THE HOTEL HIBISCUS by Robert Cockburn
18-27 October Zenith Theatre, Chatswood
Railway and McIntosh Streets Chatswood (near Chatswood Station)
Performances: Fri 19th 8pm, Sat 20th 8pm, Sun 21st 5pm, Thu 25th 8pm, Fri 26th 8pm, Sat 27th 2pm and 8pm.

Tickets $28 / $20 conc. Bookings ??? or online http://www.epicentretheatre.org.au

Media: for more information, interviews, images, cast details etc, contact Geoff Sirmai
Watchdog Communications (02) 9345 0360 mob: 0412 669 272 geoff@watchdog.com.au