In praise of Canberra’s amateur theatre scene

Posted 22 May 2017

Story by Riot ACT

It would not be news to the culture vultures in this town to say that the amateur theatre scene here is quite vibrant! It offers us brilliant performances, serving up a rich diet of theatre experiences for us all. It’s so rich, in fact, that I could in no way do it justice with one single article, but I would like to mention just a few tidbits here to get the conversation started.

canberra theatre

I asked some of our local actors about the highlights.

Nick Byrne, who recently starred (and delivered a stellar performance I might add,) in Cold Light was the first. Cold Light was a highly entertaining adaptation by playwright Alana Valentine, of Frank Moorhouse’s novel, Cold Light, whose research questioned Australia’s relationship to women of vision and people of difference. Set in Canberra in the 50s and 60s it was put on by www.thestreet.org.au.

Nick was full of praise for The Street Theatre and had this to say:

“Since taking over the management of this space, some years ago, CEO and Artistic Director, Caroline Stacey, along with Executive Producer, Dean Ellis, have transformed both the content production and the building, itself, to make it a hub of locally created or inspired professional performance. Programs were introduced to develop new works and new skill sets for local professionals, resulting in a multitude of scripts that now boast full, professional productions. In 2017, alone, I have been cast in two professional productions of fascinating projects; Cold Light, and Homer’s The Iliad. Nowhere else in Australia, with a population of Canberra’s size, would such projects regularly see the light of day.”

Of course, Nick not only acts in many productions but he also operates Impro ACT, where he runs weekly classes in the art of improvisation; he operates Australia’s international festival of unscripted theatre and produces several world premier productions, each year. He has been fortunate enough to direct in them, throughout Europe.

“We create experiments in theatre, that are vibrant in their innovation, and inspire others to build upon”, he tells me. 

Cole Hilder is also a talented Canberra actor, as well as a writer and general purveyor of all things entertaining. He recently won the CADA award for best performance in Lights, Canberra, Action.

Cole tells me that he would like to “praise the Canberra Repertory Society, who he says are an incredibly creative and artistically minded group… They host an amazing selection of plays, directed thoughtfully and performed honestly. It’s nowhere near the largest theatre in Canberra, but I believe it to be the sincerest. I would also recommend anything in which Jerry Hearn has a featured role.”

canberra theatre

Finally, Christopher Samuel Carrol, an Irish actor new to Canberra and extremely talented to say the least (I can say this as I witnessed his world-class performance, in the one-man show at the Belconnen Arts Centre recently). This one-man performance was an ambitious adaptation of Milton’s classic poem, Paradise Lost. Christopher mesmerised his audience, in a stunning 90-minute solo performance without a script.

Christopher’s opinion of the Canberra Theatre scene?

“I’d echo Nick’s sentiments about The Street Theatre. It astonishes me that when I find Canberrans, who either don’t know it exists or assume because of its location that it’s some sort of student theatre for ANU. It’s a terrific resource and one that all Canberrans ought to know about if they want to get the most out of their city… The best work I’ve seen in my year in Canberra, though, has been from the students of the Canberra Academy of Dramatic Art (CADA). It’s the only institute in Canberra that offers full-time, professional actor training. The student productions, often directed by the teachers at the school (who are some of the most accomplished and experienced artists in the ACT), are usually of an exceptionally high standard. See more here: http://www.cada.net.au.”

All three of these actors also regularly appear in the regular Tales After Dark shows as well…

I know this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to amateur theatre in Canberra, but one must start somewhere and if any of you can add to this, please do in the comments. You never know. We might feature them in a future issue.

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