How to bring a classic Australian story to the stage

Posted by on 26 February 2016 | | 0 Comments

Matthew Lutton, Artistic Director of Malthouse Theatre and director of Malthouse and Black Swan's coproduction, Picnic at Hanging Rock, sat down with The Guardian to reveal some insights into the world premiere of this stage adaptation. 

New Talent on Stage in LOADED: A Double Bill of New Plays

Posted by on 22 January 2016 | | 0 Comments


ACTOR Hoa Xuande
Though this is your debut for Black Swan, you already have professional credits under your belt.  What has it been like working with Black Swan State Theatre Company?
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with Black Swan because of the facilities and support staff that go out of their way to make your job easy. And to do a professional gig in a great venue is just a bonus.
How are you finding playing the character of Lewis? What has been challenging about the role?
Playing Lewis has definitely been a challenge as he has required me to dig deep psychologically and emotionally. And because he is a damaged character, he needs to be balanced with a just as complicated public persona, which has been a great journey to try and find.
What aspects of your WAAPA training have you drawn on for this production?
Because we had the opportunity to work with so many different and diverse directors at WAAPA, something that I’ve drawn on from my time there is to be open and trust every new process as it comes.
Can you share with us what an average day in the rehearsal room might look like?
Will, our director, is a very practical director so it was great for me to be able to work on the floor immediately as soon as we started rehearsals. And every day in the rehearsal room we would be running sections of the play or playing and improvising to discover new things.
What is next for you after Tonsils + Tweezers?
I’ll be moving back over to the East Coast, Sydney and trying to audition for a pilot season before travelling to Canada for a few months. The next couple of months will all be about networking and just establishing myself.

Actor Hoa Xuande makes his debut on Black Swan's stage in Tonsils + Tweezers by Will O'Mahony. As part of Black Swan's 2016 Bridging Company, Hoa is one of eight recent WAAPA graduates to take the stage in LOADED: A Double Bill of New Plays featuring Tonsils + Tweezers and Girl Shut Your Mouth. We chatted with Hoa about what his experience has been like. 

Will O'Mahony on Bringing a New Work from Page to Stage

Posted by on 22 January 2016 | | 0 Comments

Black Swan audiences may know Will O'Mahony first as an actor. He started with us in The HotBed Ensemble in 2009 with roles in pool (no water) and The Dark Room. He followed that with Twelfth Night in 2010, Flood in 2014 and, most recently, Glengarry Glen Ross in 2015. Other than Black Swan's stage, Will has also appeared in numerous productions at the Blue Room Theatre. But what some may not know is that Will is also a playwright and director. He was a member of Black Swan's 2014-15 Emerging Writers Program and has won multiple awards for his plays. 

Media Release: Black Swan Farewells Artistic Director, Kate Cherry

Posted by on 11 December 2015 | | 0 Comments


Black Swan State Theatre Company will farewell its current Artistic Director, Kate Cherry after nearly 9 years in the seat, at the end of 2016.
After re-invigorating Black Swan and successfully overseeing the transition into a state theatre company and becoming resident in the State Theatre Centre in 2011, Kate’s role as Artistic Director of Black Swan is drawing to a close. In 2008, Kate was brought in on a 5-year contact to grow audiences. Whilst Kate has been at Black Swan and – in conjunction with moving to the new State Theatre Centre in 2011, she successfully grew subscribers from 716 in 2008 to 2774 in 2014 and directed 16 of Black Swan’s most successful shows, breaking box office records. During her tenure, the company has also increased philanthropic income by 422%. Kate has created links with The National Theatre of China and the Daegu Music Festival in Korea. The company’s current adventure into China has evolved under Kate’s direction.
Black Swan’s Chair, Mark Barnaba AM said, “Kate’s legacy, not only for Black Swan, but also for theatre in Western Australia, will be felt for years to come. Kate has had a significant impact on the theatre sector, successfully re-shaping and re-positioning the company to be one of Australia’s foremost theatre companies and developing annual seasons that audiences and subscribers have been flocking to.”  Barnaba went on to say, “Not only will Kate’s impact be felt by audiences that have loved her work – Western Australia’s artists and Australian playwrights have benefited greatly from her strong focus on artist development and initiatives such as the Rio Tinto Black Swan Commissions.”
During Kate’s time with the company, she has built audiences by programming work that has strong appeal across a broad audience base, has initiated a number of key artist development programs such as the Emerging Writers Group, Resident Artists Program, Rio Tinto Black Swan Commissions and The Bridging Company with WAAPA, which commences in 2016. Black Swan’s General Manager, Natalie Jenkins said, “We will all miss Kate dearly, however she will leave us much to remember her by. We are very happy that she will remain with us during 2016, to celebrate our milestone 25th anniversary year.”
Kate Cherry said, “Having the opportunity to lead Black Swan has been a wonderful journey. I have personally enjoyed the challenges that have come with the position and have embraced facing those challenges head on. It has been a great pleasure to work alongside the Black Swan team and I will miss the daily engagement with Black Swan staff, artists, management and a very generous group of loyal patrons. I rate highly the time I have spent with the Board and the patrons.”
The company will now commence a search, led by Gerard Daniels, for a new Artistic Director, allowing time for a smooth transition between Kate and an incoming AD during 2016 – the company’s 25th Anniversary year.
- ENDS -
Media Enquiries:
Natalie Jenkins, General Manager
Black Swan State Theatre Company
Tel: +61 8 6212 9316  


What's in an Adaptation?

Posted by on 24 September 2015 | | 0 Comments

What goes into writing an adaptation of an existing work? Are there rules to follow, or can you have some creative licence? To get some answers, we went to writer Hilary Bell who adapted The Red Balloon by Albert Lamorisse, which we are presenting in the Studio Underground starting next week. 

It's all about the reveal

Posted by on 16 September 2015 | | 0 Comments


You’ve worked on a couple of Black Swan projects this year. What have you most enjoyed and why?
Both projects, “Blithe Spirit” and “Extinction”, have had moments of joy and excitement, and with the Quoll’s share of tech week to go it’s too early to say. The moments I always enjoy the most are the collaborative moments early in the process when there is a plethora of possibilities and wild ideas are being thrown back and forth. 
Do you have a favourite scene or “moment” in the play? What is it about it that makes it so special to you?
The first reveal is always a proud moment it’s the first dialogue with the audience, who are so visually engaged these days. Within the play itself there are many great moments. Hannah has crafted some really touching interpretations. The second major reveal (Act 2 Scene 1) is probably the next though…reveals it’s always the reveals.
You travelled for the filming of the nature scenes, how was this experience for you?
The initial site- scoping trip was great. Inspiring. All the things that Piper declares to Dix. Those things that nature supplies you with. Those things that you don’t find in the city. The second trip was stressful, as we only had two days to capture a wide variety of footage that was going to be made or broken by the weather but immense fun and ultimately a success. 
If you could bring back any extinct animal, which one would it be?
Too many to choose from. The thought makes me shudder. It’s easy to choose any of larger, impressive and or charismatic looking species but I think I’d start looking at the less noticeable but at least as intricate insects or invertebrates.  
The show has two distinct sets designs. Tell us about your process for creating the beautiful rainforest scene that we see at the beginning of Act 2.?
Looking at the synopsis of scenes in the early draft it was easy to tell that Rayson had allowed the interval for the design to reveal something special. The trick was to be able segue from set 1 to set 2 smoothly. 

Set & Costume Designer Bryan Woltjen is back, now designing our upcoming production, Extinction. We chatted with Bryan about his work, inspiration and the big reveal. 

Extinct or Endangered: Australia’s own threatened species

Posted by on 11 August 2015 | | 0 Comments


Extinction or Endangered: Australia’s own threatened species
The ecosystems of the Earth are delicate and unique, which is why the limits to shared space makes for challenging cohabitation. Documented to date, the extinct animals that once resided within Australia rest at a species count of 23 birds, 78 frogs and 27 mammals. Endangered status is considered for a species if there has been a reduction in population by ninety per cent within a decade, if the population range is severely limited or fragmented, or if the population is under fifty individuals. Australia currently holds 86 animal species that are considered endangered. The trend of species extinction can undergo reversal through education, environmental awareness and respect for animal habitats. Here are some of our critically endangered species:
Tiger/spotted-tail quoll Dasyurus masculatus
Extinction’s furry-tailed inspiration is listed as one of Australia’s most critically endangered marsupials. A carnivorous and highly vocal creature, the tiger quoll (or tiger cat) is known to reside in South Eastern Australia and Tasmania. Its lifestyle is largely nocturnal, during which time they can travel over six kilometres – a great distance considering its size! Living for approximately five years, it is the effects of land clearing, excessive baiting and scattered populations that is diminishing lifespan and causing endangered status.
Christmas Island flying-fox Pteropus melanotus natalis
The flying fox is one of the few species of bats that are active during the day. Roosting in the rainforest trees of northern Queensland, the creature feeds on fruits and blossoms of its habitat. Due to deforestation and excessive encroachment on Queensland’s rainforest environment, the flying-fox is losing its predominant source of food.
Regent honeyeater Xanthomyza phrygia
A luminous bird that inhabits the threatened box-ironbark forests of Victoria and New South Wales. The once lustrous plumage of the honeyeater has curtailed as a result of human invasion on its woodland home. True to its name, it feeds on nectar from eucalypt plants, acting as a pollinator for certain flowering plants. 
Western swamp tortoise Pseudemydura umbrina
A local to our state, the swamp tortoise resides naturally in the Swan Valley. It is a carnivore that eats only small mammals, invertebrates and reptiles. Actively functioning only in Winter and Spring, its aestivator lifestyle is the summer equivalent of hibernation. The Swan Valley has undergone decades of land clearing, urban development and exposure to pesticides and fertilisers, all of which have led to the decline of this swamp dweller.


Broadcasting a vital link for isolated audiences

Posted by on 30 June 2015 | | 0 Comments


In a state the size of Western Australia, catching the latest production from Black Swan State Theatre Company is no easy task.
‘There is no choice of theatre in our small community other than what we provide, because Perth is a 700 km drive, Albany is a 500 km drive and Kalgoorlie is 400 kms to the north,’ explained Victoria Brown, President of the Esperance Theatre Guild.
Consequently, the annual live broadcasts of a chosen production provided by Black Swan State Theatre Company are a godsend for theatre-lovers living outside of Perth.
‘From our point of view it really is amazing that we can have or take part in a live broadcast and “go to the theatre” without having to drive for a day, a seven or eight hour drive to see something,’ Brown said.
On 1 August, the audience at Esperance’s Bijou Theatre – the oldest purpose-built 
operating theatre in Western Australia – will join theatre-goers in Kalgoorlie, Geraldton, Bunbury, Merredin, Margaret River, Carnarvon, Port Hedland, Karratha, Onslow and Broome for a live broadcast of Black Swan’s Blithe Spirit, direct from Perth’s State Theatre Centre; the fifth such broadcast the company has offered to date.
The broadcast will also be screened free of charge in two metropolitan locations: the Perth Cultural Centre and Northbridge Piazza.
Black Swan General Manager Natalie Jenkins recognises that such events can’t quite capture the magic of sitting in the theatre and watching a live performance on stage, but said the feedback from regional audiences who have previously attended such broadcasts is consistently positive.
‘It’s a special event in the town, and that’s consistently the feedback that we get, that it’s a special event. It’s a shared event and I think that’s the beautiful nature of it; they are sharing and participating in something that is happening live in Perth with a live audience at the same time,’ Jenkins said.
Brown agreed, saying, ‘It feels like you are going to the theatre. The Bijou Theatre seats 140 to 150 people, so when we arrive for the live broadcast, they already have the satellite link up and it is projecting an image of the Black Swan State Theatre in Perth; so as we come in to the auditorium, you are seeing other people come in to the theatre and you can hear the buzz [of the crowd]. 
‘And when the broadcast starts, or just before the play starts, somebody from Black Swan comes on and he or she welcomes everyone to the live broadcast – “Hello to everybody in Broome, in Esperance and Kalgoorlie” – and you really get this feeling of this connection right around the state, of all the regional areas having a nice night at the theatre.
‘And I know for us when they say "hello Esperance" we all cheer, even though they can’t hear us. It is absolutely fantastic.’
For isolated regional audiences without regular access to the range of arts events which capital city residents take for granted, such broadcasts serve a valuable function beyond simply providing them with a cultural fix.
As Jenkins explains: ‘Part of why we all go and engage in the arts is because you’re actually going and engaging with a group of people – even if you go on your own you’re engaging with what’s happening on stage or you’re engaging with what’s happening around you.
‘That is very much what underpins cultural experiences, it’s about engaging with other people in some way, shape or form; and I think that is a very important thing for us to capture.
‘And I think the other side of it is it’s not the only thing we do in terms of regional areas. It’s not a substitute; it’s in addition to the live work that we try and tour out every year, where we can, and the workshops that we send out there, and the other regional activities that we do. So it’s part of a suite of engagements that we try and have in multiple communities across the year,’ she continued.
In addition to the live broadcast of Blithe Spirit, three regional centres – Broome, Port Hedland and Esperance – will host community and school theatre workshops held by Black Swan this year.
‘This year we are sending out some of our artists and … our Access and Education Manager, to go out and do some performances and engage with the community pre- and post- the live broadcast. So it provides a richer experience; it provides another way for those community members to connect with the work, and it’s a way for us to connect the company face to face as well as through the broadcast,’ said Jenkins.
For the Esperance Theatre Guild, such workshops are vital for the local performing arts community.
As Brown explained: ‘I cannot stress enough the important of this link between the Esperance Theatre Guild and regional theatre groups and what I like to call the mothership, our State Theatre, because it really does give us opportunities 
to upskill all our people … without having to go up to Perth. It has been so important for our Theatre Guild that we have this direct connection with Black Swan; and it really has enriched our theatre and arts and culture experiences since we’ve had this relationship with them.’
As well as helping facilitate greater engagement with the arts in regional Western Australia, the live theatre broadcast and its associated events is a ‘critical’ part of Black Swan’s audience development program, said Jenkins.
‘We need to cultivate audiences in the regions for our work however it is we deliver it to them. So it’s very, very important that we engage and try and develop audiences outside of Perth, because they’re people we will want to engage with in the future.
‘The other side of it is, particularly for young people in the state, they will often end up in Perth, so we try to develop those audiences for the future as well. So if we’re engaging with them while they’re living in the towns that they’re growing up in, wherever that might be, or multiple towns because a lot of people are transient, they may end up at some point in Perth and actually sitting in our theatres.
‘So it is very important to understand, I think, from our perspective as a company, that we will need to engage with them in the future and now in multiple different ways and different locations; and really it doesn’t matter where they’re sitting at the time, as a State Theatre Company we’re going to want to have some interaction with them,’ she said.
Having the broadcast delivered to multiple locations simultaneously is key to the project’s success, she continued.
‘It’s not an easy thing to do logistically and therefore it’s not a cheap thing to do,’ Jenkins laughed. ‘So we’re grateful that we have a company like Lotterywest that makes it accessible for everybody, because the fact that we can do it for these communities and that everyone can participate at the same time, is what makes it so special.’
Black Swan’s regional broadcast of Blithe Spirit takes place on 1 August at 7:30pm. Details at

Streaming productions out into the regions offers companies much more than just audience development opportunities, says ArtsHub writer Richard Watts. 

Peter Rowsthorn on 'Kath & Kim', 'Glengarry' and all things comedy

Posted by on 4 June 2015 | | 0 Comments


You might recognise Peter Rowsthorn as Brett Craig, the often distressed hubbie of Kim Craig (nee Day) on the very hilarious ‘Kath & Kim’ series. But Rowsthorn’s acting CV is packed with oh-so much more.
Where most actors begin their career on stage then end up becoming drama teachers when the work runs dry, Rowsthorn actually started his out as an acting teacher, moving into the entertainment industry when an opening became available (oo-er) in the very popular ‘The Comedy Company’ in 1989.
Since then, he has enjoyed stints in television and theatre – from the comical to the deadpan, and has even enjoyed occasional appearances in film.
A regular with the Black Swan State Theatre Company, Peter now calls Perth home and recently appeared in two of the company’s most successful productions, ‘The Importance Of Being Ernest’ and ‘Laughter On The 23 Floor’. Next up, Rowsthorn plays more of a serious character in David Mamet’s real estate epic, ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’, which opens this week at the Heath Ledger Theatre.
But wait, there’s more. Well, at least another real estate connection in Peter’s CV… He regularly presents on the television show ‘The West Real Estate Program’ – talking about real-life real estate issues in and around Perth.
Here he speaks with Rock Candy about letting go of the comical mask on occasion, his admiration for local talent, and of course, the modern epic that is ‘Glengarry’.
Interview by Andrea Manno / Photography by Robert Frith
Before we get on to the serious stuff of Glengarry Glen Ross, we’ve got to talk a bit about ‘Kath & Kim’. Was it enjoyable to play Brett Craig on the show?
It was. In fact it was a gift from heaven for me. We did ten years of that show. Every second year, we made another series. I knew all those guys from Melbourne and it was a bit of a hand-picked cast. It was good for me to play something that’s really flat and straight and doesn’t pull faces and doesn’t try to be funny. I was just the reactor, kind of like the audience, reacting to Kim, Kath, Kel and Sharon ’cause they were doing big things so I could be just a [sidekick] character. But it was a really, really enjoyable job.
When an office full of New York City real estate salesmen is given the news that all but the top two will be fired at the end of the week, the atmosphere begins to heat up. Shelly Levene, who allegedly has a sick daughter, does everything in his power to get better leads from his boss, but to no avail. When his co-worker Dave Moss comes up with a plan to steal the leads, things get complicated for this bunch of tough-talking salesmen.
Do your family like watching re-runs of TV shows you’ve appeared in?
They watch bits and pieces. ‘Thank God You’re Here’ is back on Foxtel so they like watching that, especially the episodes I was in.
Tell me about your character in ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’?
Well, the play is about real estate. It’s about competition in the workplace; because all these guys are working on commission. Management have organised a leader board, if you’re not on the board for a certain amount of time or you haven’t raised enough money, you get given the ass. Or you just get given really shitty properties to sell; stuff that’s really hard to sell. So my character is in that position.
Your character Shelly ‘The Machine’ Levene is the oldest one there, yes?
Yep, he’s old and he’s just really desperate to keep his job. My first scene is with another guy sitting in a restaurant trying to save our jobs. There’s a lot happening that’s really fun and interesting. And there’s plenty of drama. There’s a robbery and we have to work out who it is; so it’s sort of a ‘who dunnit’ as well. It’s a whole lot of guys trying to have one up on each other, playing high status, dissing each other, but also backing each other up when it’s called for. It’s fun playing characters like that because it gives you something to hang your hat on.
Did you view the film for acting tips?
I haven’t seen the film but I’ve heard it’s a very good one. When I got the part, I made a point not to watch the person who was playing me in the film because you start to adapt things to how it was done before.
Some people see it as a comical story for the most part; others see it as quite serious…
It’s not super-funny. There’s a lot of F-bombs in it [indeed the film version featured the word ‘fuck’ more times than any other movie at the time of its release]. There’s drama and there are moments of laughter but, really, it’s more tragic than it is comical. It’s very testosterone-filled too; very blokey. And it’s a great piece of writing. David Mamet won one of the big playwriting prizes, and as you know it was turned into a big film.
Does the play show the hardship of feeding a family?
A bit. They don’t talk about family much. Sometimes you make up a bit of a back story. My character does mention a daughter and he hints that she has some sort of disability. Basically, if I lose my job, my daughter will die or something terrible like that. But you don’t know if the character is just saying that to keep his job or if it is true. I know he’s broke ’cause he seems to live in a hotel-come-motel. Shelly was like the ‘top of the pops’ at the top of his game; wearing chunky jewellery and shouting everybody drinks ’cause he’s trying to be a big-noter. But now he’s buggered and has nothing. He is unskilled and he’s finding commission selling is scary. It’s a bit like me going out as an unknown comedian and saying ‘Come to my comedy night’ and I’m just praying that people arrive. It’s hard as you take your risks and sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn’t.
How do you find it working with the Black Swan State Theatre Company?
The Company is a well provided-for venue and it has great rehearsal facilities. The sets are always good. Everyone there strives for perfection, and works hard. I just like the rehearsal process, nutting out why things are happening and then getting it up on its feet and making it come to life. I’ve done a few plays but I learn so much every time I do another… and I really like it for that reason.
You’ve also done ‘The New Rocky Horror Show’…
Yeah, I did that ‘Rocky Horror Show’ for years; I reckon I did about six hundred shows of that. I like though to mix it up a bit, do different characters for a bit. I don’t know how but I don’t have the mental capacity to do the same thing for two years so I like to take some months off and then come back to a play. I have had some really great opportunities like that. I did ‘The Importance Of Being Ernest’ with Black Swan; I normally do one a year. [Director] Kate Cherry used to work with me in Melbourne a little and now she’s the Creative Director, and she’s a really great director; she gets the best out of me I think. The actors in Perth have often worked all over the world but, like most people, they want to come back to WA. The people in Perth are really talented and the standards are pretty high.
Do you do a lot of stand-up comedy in between television and plays?
Yeah, that’s my bread and butter. In the corporate sector, I go out and host events, awards nights, functions. I’m an MC but also do comedy during a night of that or sometimes I will just go to a function to do some comedy for half an hour or more. I do that all over the country. That’s how I make my cash really ‘cause showbiz doesn’t pay very well but comedy does. [Laughs].
Have you ever considered going to the US to get into more film work?
Well, I’m not Brad Pitt. And with my kids [Peter has four children], I have a different lifestyle so I can’t get them with the nanny and just go and do a film. You can work from Australia quite easily I think. Guy Pearce does it, and Eric Bana. But they’re established. At fifty-two, you sort of think I might have missed that film boat. I’m happy being a character-actor doing bits and pieces on telly here and in Australian films, like ‘Paper Planes’, which I was in recently and which did really well at the box office. I’m just happy that I’m making a career out of something that’s so much fun and that I love. Happy to get up on stage and make people laugh.
Do you believe humour is healing?
Yes. Laughter is an energy; it’s a complete release, and it’s euphoric. I think if you don’t laugh, you’re having a terrible life. Then there is laughing so hard that you can’t stop and you’re crying. If I can get people to do that, and I’m in the right mood, it’s a really great thing to watch. It’s a beautiful thing to do and I’m happy I can do it. People need to laugh; it’s like a community service.
Can you recount or tell a joke in everyday life sitting around with friends or are you more serious in your private life?
It’s definitely mood-driven, like you are, like we all are. If you get the right group of people, and you’re in the right mood, you can. Other times, I can’t; you don’t feel like that. I err on the side of humour to get something going, like if we’re touring in the car. Obviously, I’m good at picking moods and shifting them. I’m good at breaking tension, so if there’s something going on, I can shake the mood. Sometimes people expect you to be funny; I can’t stand people who go ‘well, c’mon, tell us a joke!’ It’s like telling you ‘well, write an article about me, go on’ and you go ‘well, shut up, I’m not ready!’ I find that I’m hilarious in the shower and that I get funny thoughts at different times. Often, when I’m with my wife and I just bang on about stuff and annoy her. I do the same joke or jokes to her for years and years and still make her laugh with a similar thing.
What is the most embarrassing moment in your career or life?
It’s so hard to think of one right now… I’ll probably come up with 20 later on. It’s always very embarrassing when you have to explain yourself to someone, like someone will say ‘I know you, where are you from?’, and I’ll say ‘Kath & Kim?’ But no. Maybe it was ‘Thank God You’re Here’. Nope. ‘Can We Help?’ Nope. ‘Paper Planes’. Nope. But that’s just an example of an awkward conversation…

You might recognise Peter Rowsthorn as Brett Craig, the often distressed hubbie of Kim Craig (nee Day) on the very hilarious Kath & Kim series. But Rowsthorn’s acting CV is packed with oh-so much more.

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