Friday, April 27

Brink and the Queen's

This week Assistant Director Nescha Jelk has delved into the history of the Queen's Theatre, Brink's relationship with it, and a few of the shows she's seen in the space.

Read a great account of the 'New Queen's Theatre' here

At the beginning of this week we moved to the Adelaide institution: the Queen's Theatre. It is an incredibly inspiring space, which compensates for the fact that it can get quite cold. During rehearsals this week we have all been wearing jackets and gloves and consuming vast amounts of hot tea. Despite this, I can’t stress enough how much of a luxury it is to have so much time rehearsing in the venue in which the show will be performed.

Already, rehearsing in the Queen's Theatre has added undeniable character, tone and atmosphere to the rehearsals of Land & Sea. For this reason, and because Land & Sea is full of ghostly figures, strange loops, recurring events, transient and temporal time/space, it only seems appropriate that I share a bit of history with you; on the Queen's Theatre and Brink’s past with the epic venue.

The Queen's is the oldest purpose-built theatre in Australia. Since it was built in late 1840  it has of course been used as a theatre, but also as a law court, a horse bazaar, a sale yard, and was even used as a car park in the 50s (there are some oddly placed 50s car lights permanently erected against one of the walls in the building as a hint to this past). The Queen's reopened as a multi-platform arts space in Barrie Kosky’s 1996 Adelaide Festival of Arts. I’ll quickly note that 1996 was also the year that Brink Productions was formed by the ensemble of theatre makers consisting of Michaela Cantwell, Lizzy Falkland, Victoria Hill, Richard Kelly, David Mealor, John Molloy and Paul Moore.

Quartet, Brink Productions, Queen's Theatre, 2000. (Yes, we had to SCAN these!) 

Brink’s first show at the Queen's was the highly acclaimed production of Heiner Muller’s Quartet, directed by Gerrard McArthur in 2000. The next Brink show at the Queen's, Sarah Kane’s unsettling and self-referential 4.48 Psychosis, was directed by future Artistic Director of the State Theatre Company of SA, Geordie Brookman in 2004. From an Adelaide Theatre Guide review:

"The Queen's Theatre with its expanse of decay is the ideal setting for this show."

It’s a nice coincidence that Geordie’s wife, Land & Sea playwright Nicki Bloom, is the newest collaborating artist to be involved in Brink’s third work inhabiting the Queen's. (Fun fact: Geoff Cobham, Land & Sea lighting designer, also lit Quartet in 2000).

Over the years I’ve seen a wide variety of work at the Queen's. I’ve seen exhibitions by emerging collectives of visual artists that have packed out the building with hipster kids and Coopers bottles, Lost City Festival earlier this year which saw Prince Rama, Love of Diagrams and Galapagoose playing their music to packed crowds, and Brown Council’s A Comedy in last year’s Fringe, in which audiences could throw rotten tomatoes and peanuts at the performers.

At the opposite end of this spectrum I’ve also seen David Mealor’s memorable production of Pinter’s The Birthday Party, the Fringe award winning Sons & Mothers by No Strings Attached, Shakespeare’s King John by Eleventh Hour for the 2010 Adelaide Festival (that I had the pleasure of Assistant Directing), and Chris Drummond and Susan Rogers’ adaptation of Robert Dessaix’s Night Letters for the 2004 Adelaide Festival (with Geoff Cobham on the lights again), to name just a few.

Night Letters was the first production directed by Chris Drummond that I had ever seen. I watched it on a school excursion when I was 16, and I still remember the chilling feeling I had during Paula Arundell’s monologue in which long rows of chairs were placed on stage to represent the men that had raped her character.

The Queen's Theatre has seen a wealth of artists transform its space for a wide variety of work. It is highly versatile, despite its rich history-cladded character, which is what makes it one of Adelaide’s most precious assets.

You may want to wear some warm clothes when you see Land & Sea - while we will be taking measures to make your experience as comfortable as possible, it’s better to be safe than sorry. But, I have to say, that a little bit of cold is a very small price to pay in comparison to the the wealth of character and history that the Queen's Theatre exudes into the work. While watching Land & Sea which slips through and across time and space, I recommend you keep in mind the ghosts and memories of the Queen’s rich past.

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