After announcing the launch of Belvoir’s 25A, its low-cost independent theatre initiative in November last year, Eamon Flack, the company’s artistic director, has revealed the seven shows programmed in its Downstairs Theatre, starting next month.
“Downstairs Belvoir is back,” Flack said.
Greater Sunrise, a new Australian work by Zoe Hogan, directed by Julia Patey (April 5-21); The Readers, a new Australian play by Scott Smart, directed by Elizabeth Nabben (May 5-19); Daniel Schlusser’s adaptation of Christa Wolf’s novel They Divided the Sky (June 13-30); Yarramadoon: the Musical (July 25-August 11); Jean Genet’s The Maids (August 24-September 15) directed by Carissa Licciardello; Michael Costi’s adaptation of Gogol’s The Overcoat (November 14-December 1), and an all-female version of David Williamson’s The Club, directed by Tessa Leong (December 7-22).
The 25A initiative gives independent productions free access to Belvoir’s Downstairs Theatre, free rehearsal space and marketing support. The only rule is the show must be made for under $1500. (Tickets to all 25A shows will be $25.)
Alongside this, Flack announced an artist ticket program, which allows eligible artists access to $20 tickets for all Belvoir productions.
Flack said he was motivated to establish both initiatives to create a robust and energetic artistic community at Belvoir.
“The point of this undertaking is to gather a community. It’s not just about the set of artists who get given a slot,” Flack said. “It’s about the artists they work with and the community that builds around the show, which is why we’re launching this $20 ticket program at the same time.”
The previous ticket price for artists was $48.
“$20 tickets, for any show, is a pretty affordable deal. It’s a deliberate strategy to make sure it’s affordable for artists to see each other’s work. I remember turning up in this city and wanting to see a piece of theatre and not being able to. $20 is incredibly cheap – less than a movie ticket.”
In his speech in Belvoir’s foyer, Flack highlighted the strength and passion of the independent theatre scene, noting that the “overwhelming response” to the 25A initiative received (150 applications) demonstrated not only a demand for space but the need for independent artists to be better supported in their theatre-making endeavours.
Flack explained the idea came from one of his own early directing experiences, a 2009 production of Maxim Gorky’s sprawling comedy-drama Summerfolk staged in Belvoir’s rehearsal room.
“The show didn’t cost us anything really. We only did six performances. I put the whole thing on my credit card. We bought six blue tarps, vegetarian sausages for [actor] Sophie Ross, and the beers we drank during the show. We just asked people for donations at the end of it.
“We made a show we were really proud of and people wanted to see it … and the whole thing cost me about $600. It seemed to me this was the model by which to learn your craft, especially as scared young artist. It’s always been in my mind, that experience, the freedom of it was really special.”
The Downstairs space has a long tradition of launching director and writers, Flack said.
“It was the home ground for so many really extraordinary artists in their early years, people like Kate Mulvany, Toby Schmitz and Lee Lewis. Sam Strong’s debut was in there. Simon Stone and Anne-Louise Sarks made shows in there. I made a show. There was an extraordinary college of artists learning their craft during the 12 years of B-Sharp. Careers began in that theatre … and thinking about this space, it felt wrong to me that it was not available to people to have that opportunity I had.”
25A recipient Eliza Reilly, whose Yarramadoon: the Musical opens in the Downstairs Theatre in July, said “more theatres need to be doing this and we think this is so brave [of Belvoir] and hopefully this will be a rolling-stone mechanism for everywhere else”.
Read an edited version of Eamon’s speech here.