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We Will Rock You: A promise, not just a title

We Will Rock You with Bendigo Theatre Company has been my first experience of community theatre outside of a uni context. This is probably very silly considering the words “theatre” and “community” are both in the title of my PhD research.

The first rehearsal of this show was shortly after I arrived in Bendigo, only knowing Jorja (who lovingly peer-pressured me into auditioning). It was definitely intimidating to arrive in a space that clearly had a long history and family that I was observing from the outside, but it didn’t take long for those feelings to go away.

I am truly in awe of how a show with such a large company could have such a strong feeling of connection and allow for such caring vulnerability. Before each show, we would gather in a circle around the revolve and each say something we were hoping to achieve this show, and Jordan French would tell us about who/what he was thinking of going into that performance to ground and connect us in our efforts.

After the last 18 months that the theatre industry has had, being part of a show that was as epic and spectacular as this (which is almost definitely going to be the highest budget show I work on in my life. A STAGE REVOLVE?!?!??!!) felt really powerful in ways that I am not sure that I can articulate.

Compared to crew and creatives who have been involved in this show for who knows how long, and performers who were cast before lockdown last year, I have only been involved in this production for a short time. Despite this, there are a few key things that I am adding to my theatre tool bag going forward.

The first is just the extent of the community that existed around this show, far past what the audience, and likely what myself as a performer could conceive. I was only able to attend one of the Saturday set building days, assemble a few small costume pieces (plus my egg themed boho costume -see below) as well as 4 solid hours of a truly epic bump out (we love a slick bump out process). The number of people who helped hammering things, painting, sewing, fixing wigs, taking photos, cafes who made menu items inspired by the show, people who drove hours to be involved or to see the show, truly is incredible. A large part of my PhD focus is on theatre as a tool to build community and a sense of hope, and after the last year seeing this many people rallying around this show has definitely affirmed that for me.

Secondly, I have stolen a handful of just general theatre making things that I can feel have already made me a better designer, performer, director and collaborator. After opening night I had a chat with our wonderful director Paul Watson about how much I feel I have grown as a director through observing both his incredible commitment to dramaturgy in a script that would be incredibly easy for actors to be rolling their eyes through, and his determination to make an enormous ensemble feel important and invested in each scene.

I’m also adding Stage Angels, being a fantastic quick change assistant, the circle of intention, the ability to find joy and playfulness as an ensemble member in a scripted piece to my bag of theatre making tools. I am however going to stick with my feelings about everyone involved in a show getting to go to bed after rehearsals and creatives not having to stay up until ungodly hours (but also, I’m not likely to ever direct a musical, let alone one of this scale so… hopefully that helps me stick to that goal).

I am tired, I am a bit sore and stiff still, but I feel fed, nourished, grateful to have been involved in this, and excited to invest myself into my next projects again.

Photography: Daniel Soncin

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