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Living the Dream in homegrown theatre production


Sharlene King
16 May 2019

Big Scrub logger, settler, dairy farmer, Aquarius hippie, alternative thinker, tree-changer, sea-changer. For generations, waves of people have been moving to the Northern Rivers of NSW to follow their dreams and carve out a new life.

Three years ago, stories of the region’s rich history and colourful characters were lovingly pieced together and retold against the backdrop of a community hall meeting in the theatre production Dreamland. Presented by NORPA the Northern Rivers’ leading theatre company, it enjoyed a sell-out season at Eureka hall.

Now Dreamland is back, showing at the Bangalow A&I hall until June 1. The essence of the much-loved story remains the same: a new resident interrupts a committee meeting when he wanders in wanting to hire the local hall. The committee proceeds to give him a crash course in local history. The show’s narrator is an Indigenous man.

Along with added narrative elements, working in a larger venue means a bigger design and new music. The musical ensemble - which performs the multiple roles of live band, the production’s soundtrack and sound effects - features three Southern Cross University music professionals plus internationally acclaimed Australian multi-instrumentalist Sue Simpson (violin/trombone/guitar).

Dr Barry Hill is Dreamland’s musical director and plays double bass alongside contemporary music students Angus Fletcher (drums) and Hugo Jones (keyboards/piano).

“Angus and Hugo have fantastic musicianship and Sue is experienced professional at music theatre circus gigs, so it’s a nice ensemble that works well for this project,” Dr Hill said.

“We are on the stage the whole time, not in the pit, so we’re characters – musician ghosts of the halls. As well as play the score, we’ve got to be theatrical in our approach.”

Both Angus and Hugo grew up in the Northern Rivers and their family ties to the region go back a few generations. The pair is thrilled to be part of the production.

“It’s been interesting going from having a student-teacher relationship with Barry to a professional one as colleague and equal,” said Angus.

“Having seen Dreamland in 2016 and admiring what the band was doing was, it’s pretty special to be asked to be part of the revamping of it. There are musical challenges as well as the challenge of pairing it with the theatrics of the show and following cues. It’s kept me on my toes.”

Angus said Dreamland was his biggest opportunity to date.

“We’ve done big gigs that have been important but this…a lot’s riding on it. If you screw up, you screw up the whole show. It’s high stakes. It’s a challenge which is fun.

“I’m grateful to Barry for wanting to give aspiring musicians from Southern Cross an opportunity like this,” said Angus.

Dr Hill said the University’s relationship with NORPA was invaluable.

“For high achieving students like Hugo and Angus these sorts of theatre productions are really good leg-ups into the industry in terms of career paths. This is a show where they’re getting paid properly as musicians, so they’re expected to be at a professional level.

“This is where you start to develop networks. Now having worked with these guys as colleagues, and not as students, I know they can cut it. When I’m talking to other artists and creative people who are looking for keyboard players or a drummer I can recommend them.”



For more information and to buy tickets, visit NORPA.

Until June 1, 2019.