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Getting a read on your favourite stage works, without leaving home

Culture

If you’ve been missing live theatre productions since the advent of social restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic, join the club – Queensland Theatre’s Play Club.

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Like most other arts organisations and cultural institutions, Queensland Theatre has been forced to move some of its content online over the past couple of months, and tonight it will host its third Zoom live reading as part of the Play Club initiative.

Play Club has been taking place every three weeks, and tonight’s live reading will be The Story of the Miracles at Cookie’s Table, written by Wesley Enoch, directed by QT’s Isaac Drandic and featuring a cast including Guy Simon, Ursula Yovich and Roxanne McDonald.

Lewis admitted that when the concept of live table reads was first decided upon, it seemed “just not substantial”, but she said had been pleasantly surprised by the overwhelmingly positive reception to the first two readings, Van Badham’s romantic comedy The Bull, the Moon and the Coronet of Stars and Debra Oswald’s Mr Bailey’s Minder.

 We were just really surprised by how much people just enjoyed it,” Lewis told InQueensland. “I forget because we do a play reading just to test out a work and have a listen to it, figure out whether we really want to do it, so it’s a tool.

“But the response that we got was really positive and we were kind of like, oh, well we can do more. So it’s been really lovely folding it out and we’ve had an extraordinary donor come forward and offer to support it so we can actually continue to do them, because we didn’t have a lot of money to keep doing them.”

The Story of the Miracles at Cookie’s Table is a multi-generational play that revolves around an Indigenous family on Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island). It is described as a moving testament to culture lived, lost and found, the strength of family, adapting and gathering together.

The Story of the Miracles at Cookie’s Table won the 2005 Patrick White Playwright’s Award and was also shortlisted for both the NSW and Victorian Premiers’ Literary Awards.

Lewis said Enoch – who was himself artistic director of Queensland Theatre from 2010 until 2015 – was quick to offer his approval when consulted about tonight’s reading.

“The thing is, once you’ve worked for a company, it’s always a part of you,” Lewis said. “It’s funny to pick up the phone and say, ‘hey Wes, can we do your play?’ He said, ‘oh that would be wonderful, but I don’t have any time to direct it’.”

But she said Enoch was supportive of Drandic directing the reading.

“Wesley’s still an advocate for Queensland artists and for work up here and he’s one of our great storytellers, and this is one is a really important story for him and his family. It’s a beautiful, beautiful play and it’s one of our national treasures.”

Lewis said she saw Play Time as an important chance to reflect on Australia’s cultural heritage, saying literature was always something people would “come back to in times of need”.

“It won’t be this but something else will happen 20 years from now, and we will be flung into a crisis and where do you go to the crisis? You go to the bookshelf, you go, oh, that’s on the shelf, we could pull out this play and have a play with that story and it reminds us that the things that we build don’t disappear, so, I hope it’s sort of reminding Wesley of that as well.”

She said the positive response to the performances – particularly from people in regional and remote areas who didn’t ordinarily have the same opportunity to engage with live theatre – meant it was an initiative that was likely to continue in some form after social restrictions eased.

“There’s a real future for the idea and I think that’s what we’re starting to see it all of the different venues and theatres and different groups of artists – they’re starting to figure out what are real ideas, not just filling time until we get back to doing the real thing that we do, which we will get back to doing.

“We’re talking about the possibility of a digital subscription next year, being able to film a couple of our shows so that people have access to those around the state and then we probably will include the Play Club readings in a digital subscription, so that people can actually engage with the theatre from home.

For more details about Play Club, visit queenslandtheatre.com.au/qualitytime

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