5pound theatre are truly proud and excited to be finishing their 2012 season with what is by far their biggest and most ambitious project to date… 5pounds of Repertory Theatre
For 5 weeks The Owl and the Pussycat in Richmond will be transformed into Australia’s only working repertory theatre. An ambitious idea but, for co-artistic director of 5pound thetare Jason Cavanagh, It is an idea that has grown naturally out of the core values of the company. "This belief that it should be fun and engaging for the artists involved as well as the audiences, and a further, possibly misguided belief, that the harder something is, the more work it is, then the more fun it ultimately is," he says. "The initial reaction when it was first pitched was an almost unanimous belief that we wouldn’t be able to pull it off, and so, of course, we had to try."
"We put some research into how the old repertory theatres operated; what sort of shows they put on, how they structured their weeks… basically all the nitty gritty. Then we largely stole those tried and true fundamentals and adapted them to fit into a package we were better able to manage- 5 shows, 5 weeks. After that it was simply a case of finding a bunch of actors and directors wonderful enough to take on the challenge… which, thankfully we did and now here we are."
So 5 different directors and a group of 5 actors will rehearse, produce and present 5 very different shows over the course of 5 weeks. The lineup was chosen to reflect a typical repertory season. For Cavanagh it is a labor of love coupled with a nostalgic respect for this stuff of another time and world. "I have really romanticized idea’s about theatre of the old world. I love hearing old war stories from the veterans in our industry," he admits. "It always seems like they worked harder, had richer experiences and a more deeply held love and reverence for the institution of theatre. This is something that I adopted somewhere along the way. And I have a belief that when the repertory theatres died an important part of that world crumbled away."
"It’s not hard to understand why it happened, and I am not for a second moaning about progress – the world turns, the cookie crumbles… and so forth. It’s all a natural part of life and art. But I think that tradition, in this context theatrical tradition, is important."
"Now days it seems everything is about being avant garde. There seems to be this idea that if someone hasn’t done something before it automatically makes it worth doing, and conversely if something has been done before then it somehow makes doing it again irrelevant. And I just fail to agree; The repertory theatre’s were loved by the community and created some of the best actors out there working today- there has to be some worth in that."
"Of course there are new movements, new discoveries, new views, new artists… art is ever changing and that is as it should be. But I draw the line at ignoring our history. Picasso learnt how to paint landscapes and fruit bowls before he discovered cubism – the tradition and craft of any artistic persuasion is important… to me at least and that’s where this project comes in."
"I have read about the old rep theatres; heard stories about them. About audiences going to watch their favorite actors in different roles from week to week, the connection they had with their local theatres- akin to how people follow a local sporting club now… they were a part of the community and I don’t see why we can’t have that today… at least for 5 weeks."
"The participants by the end of it will be dripping with creative juices, the space will be drenched in it and the energy, I’m sure, will effect and infect every performance. I have an idea that it’s the sort of visceral experience that I have been longing for whilst watching live show after live show that may as well be on the screen – Flat and disconnected as opposed to immediate and engaging."
"That’s the idea… but at this point really no one knows what will happen, and that in and of itself is something quite exciting. Suddenly I feel I’m being quite avant garde by being a traditionalist, which is actually quite post modern."
Cavanagh admits that this is by far the biggest and most expensive project 5pound theatre has ever organized. There are more people involved who are taking a slice of the financial pie consequently the risk factor heightens. the work load is larger and, he says, it has almost completely taken over his life already and it hasn’t even started.
The commitment is clearly huge from both a personal and p[practical perspective. One of the biggest challenges will be coordinating the rehearsal of one show during the day whilst performing another one at night. "No more pronounced than during our second week whilst performing Pygmalion and rehearsing Sally… A Musical, in which each actor has about 5 different characters to develop," he states. " Also, it being a musical, we have to learn a series of 1920’s jazz songs (singing and dancing). Not to mention switching from 1920’s American accents during the day to 1910’s English (ranging from extreme upper class, the most guttural cockney and one of us needs to go Welsh) at night… that will be interesting."
5pound thertare has been around since 2010. It's vision is strong, practical and user friendly. "I’m someone who believes that art should be no more serious than life and life should never be taken too seriously," explains Cavanagh. " So when deciding what to do with 5pound, really the core question is – what are we going to have the most fun doing? Of course then the question becomes, just what do you find enjoyable?"
"Hard work is a deceptive term sometimes because if the work is fun then it’s not really work at all. I love pushing myself to produce, working to deadlines and challenging myself to overextend… when talking about artistic pursuit of course."
"The only time that I can go a full day and forget to eat is when I am fully engrossed in a painting. Similarly there is something magical about rehearsals running into the wee hours of the morning, or the amazing discoveries you make while hung over and sleep deprived on a Sunday morning."
"All this rambling aside I think while an artwork is informing, reflecting and guiding society… it also needs to entertain its audience. Fun and a sense of play is something that is actually important to us as a company. This is something that we bring to the process of creation – for the people involved creating the work, which is then, hopefully, reflected in the end result, and translated to the audience."
So for a deeper appreciation for the theatrical tradition and the memory of an enjoyable evening that will encompass everything there is to love about theatre and presents it for around $20 a ticket – It’s almost a crime not to go.
5pounds of repertory theatre begins with Pygmalion on November 6 and ends with Hamlet on December 8