HELEN MUSA’s weekly arts column features opening concerts and shows in Canberra
“STRUGGLETOWN” or “The Soweto of Canberra” are some of the common tags applied to Queanbeyan, but by the time theatre director Damian Callinan celebrates it on stage this weekend, the town will be a centre of defiant pride.Callinan, a former drama teacher and stand-up comic, has been buzzing around town all week with filmmaker John Cherry capturing famous and not so famous Queanbeyanites, with a view to incorporating the footage in an onstage show at The Q tomorrow, Saturday (August 19).
“Town Folk”, the sequel to his earlier Melbourne Comedy Festival hit “Roadshow”, is a “curated” theatre project based on local individuals and groups around the country. It’s a kind of formula, as Callinan explained to “CityNews” earlier in the week when we caught up with him on the oval outside the Queanbeyan Tigers’ Club.
On location for less than a week, Callinan and Cherry aim to create “a living, vibrant time capsule of each and every place they visit”, based on surveys sent out to the community prior to the performance.
Admittedly, Callinan told “CityNews”, he didn’t have many respondents this time round, but he did form the impression that Queanbeyanites were proud of their town and eager to highlight differences from the larger “town” across the border.
“CityNews” found him bouncing around the oval earlier in the week with the Queanbeyan Tigers AFL women’s team while Cherry filmed. It was quite an act on Callinan’s part as he enticed them into highflying moves. For his part, he says, this was the first town in which they’d done a segment with women footballers and he found that, unlike the blokes, they “danced”.
He and Cherry have built a show, in less than a week, based entirely on the “Town Folk” they’ve encountered. After meeting some locals at the Royal, following the footballers, mixing it with the Macedonian dancers, going on a Moonlight Mystery Tour with Nichole Overall and enjoying a workshop with local stand-up comedians, the results will be played back to community live on stage in a combination of film clips, on stage stunts, interviews and sketches.Callinan said basing shows on different towns could be a bit tricky, as they needed to fit their “template” to individual communities and were reliant on the generosity of locals – “it’s up to the townspeople”, he said, adding “but I know how to make people comfortable”.
They always have a basic structure involving comedy, photomontage and video, he said, but when they arrived in Queanbeyan they were somewhat surprised by the fierce sense of independence from Canberra.
Asked whether they would take a look at the famous underbelly of Queanbeyan, Callinan said his tendency was to concentrate on the more positive aspects of town life – “it will be celebratory in nature”.
“Town Folk”, live on stage at The Q, Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre on Saturday, August 19. Bookings to theq.net.au or 6285 6290.