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Once In Royal David's City

It's vital for contemporary and recent Australian work to have a sophomore outing, writes Patrick Howard.

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Company: New Theatre
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New Theatre: Fresh Eyes on Modern Classics

Date: 6 Mar 2019

One of my first experiences working at the New was on Rachel Chant’s excellent production of Andrew Bovell’s When the Rain Stops Falling in 2015.

I was fresh out of drama school and performing a role in New Theatre’s Mardi Gras production of Mother Clap’s Molly House at the time, and somehow volunteered myself to stage manage for the Bovell show.

I had trained in theatre production but found my focus was towards dramaturgical and sound design roles, however I loved the idea of stage management, so I thought I’d give it a go, despite having no experience. It went very well! Since then, most of the work I’ve taken on in theatres in Sydney has been in production and stage management, and that is almost entirely due to the New being willing to give young graduates opportunities that other theatres maybe wouldn’t.

I think it’s not insignificant that I got this ‘break’ while doing a revival of a recent Australian text. The New has long championed ‘the new’, giving space for contemporary and recent Australian work to have a sophomore outing, and also giving opportunities for young artists (on and off stage) to cut their teeth in front of an audience.

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I ended up coming back in 2016 as SM on the New’s revival of the stage adaptation by Richard Roxburgh and Justin Monjo of Tim Winton’s evocative coming-of-age story That Eye, The Sky. I had another brilliant experience on that production, working with a young Australian director, David Burrowes, who brought a magical, radical vision to a newer Australian text.

I learnt so much from working with these two young directors, and on these fantastic Australian plays. It’s an intimidating but very exciting feeling to have been entrusted to direct this year’s contemporary Australian play – Michael Gow’s wonderful Once In Royal David’s City – my first for the main-stage season at the New. I’ve felt, having worked with Rachel and David, that I have been able to take some risks, and have a wonderful insight in how to create some really lovely magic-real moments. It’s also wonderful to feel supported by the theatre in the role of director as someone who is very much coming from a background in devised work and performance art.

I hope the production lends itself to the legacy of new directors making new choices for the theatre with newer Australian texts.

Patrick Howard is a freelance theatre artist with a passion for queer, political, devised, musical and documentary theatre.

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