Melbourne Playback Theatre Company’s shows are all made up of real events, and they’re back for 2018 with two days of performances for all ages, with Love is Love and Imaginarium. We spoke to Artistic Director Rachel Dubois about the shows and how they came together.

Their shows are unique, as they are all devised from audience stories, with no script involve. To prepare for this, they train weekly on a Monday night in North Fitzroy.

“Our ensemble comes together and we train in different performance techniques such as improv skills, acting techniques, movement techniques, singing etc. We often have outside facilitators come in and teach us their specialist skill, but mostly we do playback with each other’s stories”, said Dubois.

“We tell stories to each other and then make theatre from them on the spot. It means we get to know each other REALLY well!”

Love is Love is an immersive piece that will share stories of love following the recent divisive and unnecessary postal vote.

“With this show we definitely want to create an event where LGBTIA+ community members can share their experiences of the recent postal vote, how the process was for them and also celebrate the outcome. We have some LGBTIA+ actors in our ensemble and we recognise that the process was pretty hard on them and their families. It was also over so quickly once the result came in as everyone in the media moved on. We want to stop for a moment, acknowledge what has happened, ask how that was for people, and reflect on the process using our unique style of theatre and storytelling” she said.

“The idea came from our ensemble member Lucy who was reflecting that there hadn’t been much space for the community to debrief the postal vote process. Overall, it’s about love for all, what love means to everyone and we encourage stories of love from all relationships”.

She’s delighted that marriage equality has finally passed in Australia, but is sad it took this long.

“The government could have had a free vote years ago and saved a lot of pain and expense for people. I’m from NZ and marriage equality was achieved years ago with minimal fuss so I was quite saddened by the lack of strong leadership from both sides of the political aisle on this issue. But I’m very glad its happened now. I hope this means I get go to more weddings! I love other people’s weddings” said Dubois.

Don’t be afraid stepping into these performances; sharing your story and audience participation is completely voluntary.

“In our shows we have a team of actors and musicians plus a facilitator who is the host of the show. Our facilitator will aim to hear a wide range of stories from the audience. We engage the audience by firstly being entertaining and gaining people’s trust,’ she explained.

Love is Love Landscape Image 2

‘Stories are shared by an audience member simply talking to our facilitator who may ask a few questions; it’s usually just like having a conversation (though with an audience!). The performers and audience are listening; the performers are listening very closely. Once the story has been shared, it’s handed over to the performing team who then ‘Playback’ the story using our style of improvised theatre and live music’.

“Our team are aiming to create a piece of theatre that gets to the heart of what the story is about and they will often put a theatrical spin on it. A story might become a country and western, a noir film, a fairytale or a song.  Once the story has been played back, we hear another story and so on. In a show we will hear about 10-15 stories from the audience’ she said.

Dubois shared her story of love (a hetero one), and how she might play it back in one of their shows.

I came to Melbourne on a four-month working holiday but a friend of mine set me up with a friend of hers. We hit it off right away and I suddenly didn’t want to go home. Cut to 10 years later we are married and just had a baby. It’s been a wonderful decade of love, travel and adventure and I’m so happy we met. My mum isn’t so happy though. She still wants me home in NZ!” she said.

If I was given that story in a playback show, I might play it back as an adventure through the Himalayas, climbing a huge mountain, venturing further and further from home but finding more and more to discover”.

They are also putting on Imaginarium, a piece for little art lovers, as they love doing shows for younger people.

“Kids are so willing to share stories and they get such a thrill out of us putting an imaginative and theatrical spin on their stories. They get to be the scriptwriters of their very own performance. Of course some kids just want to watch and that’s totally fine too. But the stories kids tell have an extra element of magic to them. Its great for their parents and caregivers too, to see their little people sharing stories of their lives and having them turned into theatre” Dubois said.

Melbourne Playback Theatre Company are working on plenty more offering for this year, such as a workshop series in performance skills including stage combat, acting and movement, working on future shows, and working on projects with their corporate clients. But to catch these shows, you only have a few opportunities:  Love is Love plays at 7:30pm on Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th of March, and Imaginarium on Sunday 18th at 10:3am and 2pm. Both delight at the Northcote Town Hall – more info at