Reception for Queensland Theatre’s 50th Anniversary
Our Chair, Ms Elizabeth Jameson and fellow Board members; Executive Director, Ms Amanda Jolly; Artistic Director, Mr Sam Strong; distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
I at once acknowledge the Traditional Owners and First Nations peoples of the lands on which we are gathered – our original storytellers. I extend respectful greetings to Elders and emerging leaders.
Kaye and I are delighted to welcome you all to Fernberg to commemorate the significant fiftieth anniversary of Queensland Theatre.
Those of us ‘of a certain age’ might recall the unique air of 1969… Woodstock; the Abbey Road album; Monty Python’s Flying Circus; and although differently cultural, those all-important first steps on the moon.
Meanwhile, in Brisbane that year – half a century ago this month, the College Players from The University of Queensland staged The Royal Hunt of the Sun – about the conquest of Peru – at the SGIO Theatre on Turbot Street. (And we are delighted to have here today, Dr Bryan Nason, director, and several cast and crew from that adventurous, bold production.) The programme is on the piano lid.
That historic step in our city’s cultural journey precipitated the formation of the Queensland Theatre Company by Act of Parliament the following year. The statute is there as well.
There was an immediate impression. In April 1970, the Company, as it was then known, performed A Rum Do! in front of no less than our Head of State, The Queen – still the only Australian theatre company to give a Royal performance.
Kaye and I have long been supporters of Queensland Theatre, and hosting this occasion stirred happy reminiscences of the SGIO Theatre.
Our memory goes back to a performance in the late 1980s – Kaye thinks of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Then Governor, the State’s 21st, Sir Walter Campbell and Lady Campbell attended the performance.
Characteristic of that era, as they entered, we were all asked to stand for the Vice-Regal Anthem. These days our people show their respect and support in other ways. That was the late 1980s: the older among us remember in an even earlier era rising for God Save The Queen at picture theatres! No subliminal messages by the way here – I hope it is perceived the current vice-regal approach is appropriately contemporary.
As is, some fifty years after its formation, Queensland Theatre, which remains one of our most illustrious major performing arts companies, and in tune with the age.
The distinguished roll call of alumni – Geoffrey Rush, Carole Burns, Diane Cilento, Deborah Mailman, Wesley Enoch to name but a few – speaks of Queensland Theatre’s reach and influence.
Now housed in the recently refurbished Billie Brown Studio (another distinguished alumnus!), Queenslanders are indeed proud and fortunate affectionately to claim this company as their very own.
And with each season, audiences all around the State, remain spellbound by Queensland Theatre’s dual commitments to creating theatre of the highest quality, and especially pleasing, may I say, to the telling of Queensland stories.
How wonderful that next year’s fiftieth anniversary programme fulfils those commitments, with the highly anticipated production of Boy Swallows Universe, Queensland takes on classics Othello and Phaedra and the ‘50 Years of Theatre’ project – an excellently conceived programme, Artistic Director, as you will be coming to the end of your much-appreciated term.
As your proud Patron, with Kaye, I congratulate everyone who has contributed to the success of this uplifting Queensland institution. You have all brought a wonderful lustre to our State – may it continue to feed and uplift our spirits for at least another fifty years!