What I’d like to see at the 2017 Anywhere Theatre Festival

We’ll be announcing the process soon for everyone interested in the 2017 Anywhere Theatre Festival which will run from 4-21 May 2017.

In the meantime I wanted to put some thoughts and ideas out there on what I would like to see in 2017.

Wives of Wolfgang photo by Geoff Lawrence

The big proviso is that I still don’t see it as my job to say yes or no to projects based on a pitch and description. I’ve loved the description of shows that ended up being dogs and felt nonplussed by the description of other shows that ended up blowing me away.

What I’m saying is you can do what you want as long as it is anywhere but a theatre… As an audience member this is what I’d like to see.

This is a theatrical festival where audiences say they want to explore unusual locations so give them that. Custom made theatres are not what the festival is about and you won’t attract an audience in this festival anyway (particularly because that is the only type of show proposal we say no to).

Don’t go for the next best thing to a theatre and find a pub with a stage. Once again, you’ve missed the point of the festival if you do this. People can see performance/music/poetry/comedy at those places at any other time – how will it stand out in a festival of performance anywhere but a theatre?

Think about why it will be unique if you are on a stage of any description. There are exceptions and this year’s Anywhere Award winning Foxy Moron presents was a nearly perfect fit with Hotel LA, though I still think it would have been even better performing in the backyard of different houses around the BBQ and pool.

Go for places that don’t usually have performances and just go in and pitch the idea. My favourite (and audience favourite) shows are the ones on stairwells, in florists, in swimming pools, in businesses where I am watching a show where I probably shouldn’t be.

It isn’t that hard to get an unusual venue on board. Anywhere Theatre Festival gives everyone an info pack to help explain it and we’re absolutely happy to approach on your behalf.

Be ambitious. Audience stand outs this year were pieces on a train platform with a steam train, a converted car park, several floors of a building taken over (here and here), the remains of the women’s wing of Boggo Road Gaol, a church for a “wake” (pictured).

Stop trying to convert the spaces into theatres. Once again, it misses the point and all you’ll get is audiences saying “why didn’t they just put it in a theatre?” Why indeed?

Try not to truck in any theatre equipment if at all. It depresses me when I walk into an interesting space for a show and then step over the sound and lighting guy sitting there with cables, lighting rigs where some candles and a torch would have been more interesting and genuine. Case in point: check out what Tee-ball Ticket Theatre did with DNA at this year’s festival at Bert Hinkler Park.

The only exception to the above is if you are going to do something hugely ambitious – a sleep no more or Little Boxes type show.

I’d love to see more… I’m not going to call them “installations” or “immersive”. Maybe they are best described as “moments”. Maybe they are best described as meta shows”. Examples: ticketing a day long rehearsal in a studio as a band records an album, games on sidewalks that people interact with, an event where people sit and watch the feeds of people using Facebook in the area, or where people come in and see a part of a job being completed. An opportunity to experience a nook and cranny they wouldn’t be able to otherwise. Think beyond the traditional devised or written three act structure and think about how else it can be done.

Play with your audience in the best possible way.

Be ambitious, relevant, or irreverant and do it anywhere but a theatre because they keep being torn down anyway. 

Does that make it any clearer?


IMAGE CREDIT: Image of “Wives of Wolfgang” 2016 Anywhere Theatre Festival. Photograph by Geoff Lawrence.

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