There is something about a launch that entices and excites: when it is a season launch, and more specifically, the NORPA 2014 Season launch, this is cause for celebration.
NORPA (Northern Rivers Performing Arts) is a theatre company based in Lismore and has been delivering quality theatre/performance to appreciative audiences since 1993.
NORPA draws inspiration from “...the Northern Rivers, our physical and spiritual home - drawing inspiration from its landscape, history, people and culture...programming works from leading and emerging national companies that reflect the diversity of our community...”
On Friday night we gathered in the foyer of the newly refurbished (and looking fabulous) Lismore City Hall, where wide-eyed and expectant future audiences filed in and gathered, sharing sandwiches and beverages, wondering what this new season of NORPA productions will offer.
Always interesting to witness the demographic of these events: the hungry-for-theatre crowds don’t seem to change much from city to country (only their frocks) with the Northern Rivers no exception. I live here. Who are all these people? Epiphany: they all live in this region, too, with the common thread stitching us together being the love of a good show.
Australia-wide (be it Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Lismore etc) the presentation of a new production by a well-known and hugely respected performing arts company will always gather the crowd. A NORPA Season launch saw the crowd at maximum capacity.
Musical intro, computer generated; static, over-ride and voice-over; telephone on hold and hold your breath! Five young innovative talents piecing the introduction together. Later in the show (yes, a show, enlightening and entertaining as all good launches should be) I realised that this musical intro was indeed a sampling of the 2014 Generator production, My Radio Heart.
Premiering in NORPA’s season launch before travelling to Sydney, this co-production (writer and director Rosie Dennis) in collaboration with Sydney’s Urban Theatre Projects, features Northern Rivers electronica band Tralala Blip “as they’ve never been seen before.” A love story for the 21st Century, My Radio Heart has a local ensemble of “six abled and differently-abled performers” offering “a life performance, a visual feast immersing you in their music...cinematic and audiovisual.”
Julian Louis, NORPA’s Artistic Director, enthralled the audience with his enthusiasm, energy and accolades for the shows coming up throughout the year. He admits, “Nothing happens in theatre on your own, there is a spirit of collaboration and co-operation.”
Julian ran us through the programme with video/screen bites, tempters and teasers, all the while keeping up the snapee repartee, introducing each offering and thanking the performance partners and sponsors.
Without patrons and patronage, sponsors, collaborations and commitment on so many levels, live theatre would be dead in the water.
On that watery note, Lake, by Lisa Wilson, “bold in its vision and deeply evocative, Lake literally floods the entire performance area to grapple with our fascination and our fear of water”. As Julian quipped, “We will be flooding the stage on purpose!” Lismore does not always have a choice when it comes to floods...
If water is not your-cup-of-tea, perhaps Food (by Steve Rodgers) will whet your appetite for live theatre? Julian relates, “Rodgers and Champion (director) have created a fluid combination of dance and text - this is fun and emotionally charged theatre.” Audience members become restaurant guests as the sisters battle it out on stage. The promo video had most of the audience ready to order on the spot!
George Orwell’s 1984 will be served up by shake & stir theatre co and if it is half as good as Animal Farm, then this ‘terrifically gripping theatrical event set against a towering wall of plasma screens” will have you screaming for more.
Wulamanayuwi and the Seven Pamanui, written by Jason De Santis and directed by Eamon Flack, is a “modern Aboriginal adventure story inspired by Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” featuring puppets, song and dance, and another recipe for great entertainment for the whole family. Introduce theatre at a young age and you guarantee ongoing culture and creativity with inspiration and experience the cornerstone to theatrical life.
Other offerings throughout the year include Henry V, take a bow Bell Shakespeare and director Damien Ryan, with “political spin, patriotism, religion, class, monarchy, brotherhood and how leaders respond during times of crisis.” Oooeee, has anything changed since Shakespeare’s footfall on planet earth? Apart from the way we communicate (tweets, twitters, off-yer-facebook jibes). As Julian so aptly put it, “You get to hear language again...”
Crimson Sky (Taikoz) and Circus Oz will also be part of the 2014 extravaganza in the latter part of the year, with something for everyone.
As Julian summed up the year’s programme with “luck, faith in the idea and a little touch of magic...” a stage play (choreography on steroids by Animal Farm Collective) unfolds and a major splash of the ‘wow’ factor offers the audience a taste of things to come... Delicious!