There’s a new production company in town and they’re wholeheartedly committed to producing and developing original works and nurturing young Australian talent.
The independent arts producers of Hucklebuck Productions are Mark Taylor and James Pope, and they’re passionate about creating an environment for Australian artists that is collaborative, supportive and professional that will deliver enthralling productions by Australians, for Australians.
It’s arguably an exciting time for Australians involved in theatre. There seems to be a movement finally getting traction that celebrates Australian productions. After the noticeable lack of Australian productions in the Helpmann nominations for Best Musical category, Eddie Perfect took to Twitter to voice his disappointment:
Not criticising Helpmann Awards, but one look at the noms confirm the obvious; original Australian music theatre is in real crisis.
— Eddie Perfect (@Eddieperfect) June 19, 2017
I write musicals only because I left my country. Unlike EVERY other art form, MT is entirely imported. The complacency is staggering.
— Eddie Perfect (@Eddieperfect) June 19, 2017
Read more of his thoughts here.
But is that all set to change? Paris: A Rock Odyssey had a successful Melbourne season, STC is set to stage Muriel’s Wedding later this year and now Hucklebuck Productions are dedicating themselves to giving the Australian arts scene room to explore and develop the best arts works possible.
“Hucklebuck came about after countless conversations between James, myself and our friends about the current state of arts in this country,” Taylor said.
“We were becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of original work being created in Australia, particularly in the musical theatre arena and decided to do something about it.”
Despite setting up a production company together, Taylor and Pope haven’t known each other all that long.
“We met through our partners and it was love at first sight, in a professional sense!” Pope said.
Like all good things, “the idea to work together came about over some good food and wine”.
“Whenever I watch a show I think about all elements of the production, so becoming a producer was a natural progression,” Pope said.
“And then I met Mark who shared a similar vision and that was the green light for me.”
And the most exciting part of starting a new production company for Pope?
“Starting something from scratch. It’s liberating to be doing your own thing and charting your own course,” he said.
“We’ve already been presented some great new ideas.”
With state borders as no issue, the pair hopes to be producing works all over Australia. Audiences can expect “innovative, brave and high-quality productions with a focus on cultivating home grown creativity”, according to Pope.
“We hope to be producing shows in venues across Australia and have a reputation for creating ground-breaking work whilst being great guys to work with,” Pope said.
Both Taylor and Pope began their careers as artists and performers themselves and have comprehensive backgrounds in working across the arts. Taylor has made his mark on Melbourne theatre through directing some Pursued by Bear productions and worked with entertainment marketing agency AKA Australia.
Pope holds degrees in law, arts, commerce and marketing, working sometimes as a lawyer, advertising executive and actor. With experience in various TV and theatre productions under his belt, Pope is currently focusing on property development and theatre producing.
“We are surrounded by so many wonderful artists who find themselves with incredible stories to tell and talent to burn, but a real lack of opportunities to get them seen by audiences,” Pope said.
“We find original work particularly exhilarating and essential to produce in a country with so much potential to be a world leader in the arts.”
Hucklebuck’s producing efforts begin with SELF, a new work from renowned choreographer Michael Ralph. Together with “prodigy” composer – according to Taylor – Jack Earle, and music theatre star Rohan Browne (Singin’ in the Rain), the dance production explores the psyche of an artist, and indeed the human condition. Browne is supported by seven of Australia’s most exciting dancers and a thrilling seven-piece band.
Pope is particularly excited about “witnessing the growth of the piece as the combined imaginations of Michael, Jack, Rohan and our fantastic cast develop the show right up to Opening Night, and then seeing the audience’s response”.
The ensemble of SELF are: Alex Given (Georgy Girl: The Seekers Musical, My Fair Lady), Loren Hunter (Wicked, Dusty), Sheridan Anderson (Dusty, We Will Rock You) Romina Villafranca (King Kong, Singin’ in the Rain), Jordan-Asher Turner (West Side Story, Dance Academy) and Max Patterson (Hot Shoe Shuffle, The Helpmann Awards).
The season of SELF is at Chapel off Chapel 21 September – 1 October with bookings available through Chapel off Chapel’s website.
“We are patriotic Aussies and get an extra special tingle and sense of pride when a great piece of work is conceived and created in Australia and not imported, whether that be on stage or screen,” Pope said.
Playing a key part in the movement pushing the importance of Australian work is “thrilling” for Pope and Taylor.
“It feels relevant and essential,” Pope said.
“Part of the thrill is the higher risk of producing predominantly original Australian work that you’ve handpicked and believe in, rather than tried and proven hit shows from elsewhere.
“We’re interested in hearing people’s ideas for new Australian work, so welcome artists getting in touch.”
You can find Hucklebuck Productions online at www.hucklebuckproductions.com and @hucklebuckproductions on Facebook and Instagram.