Festival of Australian Student Theatre
La Boite Theatre/ QUT Creative Industries
October 3 – 5
Festivals encourage artists and audiences alike to take risks and venture out of their comfort zones. This is a philosophy put to the test at each year’s Festival of Australian Student Theatre (FAST). Now in its fifth year, the festival, which is run in association with La Boite Theatre Company and QUT Creative Industries, is a three day cavalcade of shows from across Australia. And it is wonderful to reflect that so many of my 2014 favourites have come from Queensland origins.
Queensland University of Technology, Vena Cava Production’s “Girls on Film” shows a collection of silent film femme fatales anxiously awaiting the arrival of some men. Against a set styled in black and white with muted hues of grey the frocked up flappers of pearls and lace are exaggerated in their vignette contemplations of what they should and then can do. With a gramophone crackling and an authentic pre-show soundtrack of numbers such as Paul Whiteman’s ‘When’, “Girls on Film” is very much a black and white silent film on stage and, as such, it takes the audience on an entertaining (albeit a little prolonged), trip back in time. The eclectic group, from wide-eyed innocent to working girl (literally not metaphorically), vamp it up in their longing for acceptance and desire to both have their cake and eat it too, in a three-dimensional reality otherwise denied to them.
With much less in way of aesthetic, but a whole lot of thematic interest is the play reading of “John Smith’ by Facade Facilities (Griffith University and Queensland University of Technology). As the title suggests, Smith is an everyman, adrift in a sea of expectations and choice sayings like ‘you’ll be right’ and ‘chin up mate’. And while content-wise the audience is taken on a wild ride from Japanese suicide to goldfish envy, the specificity of its identifiable Brisbane settings (from the Shingle Inn to a Highgate Hill park) only add to its authenticity and thus its impact as a work of much potential.
And then there is “Dad Jokes”, a comic piece from Madeleine Lewis of the Southbank Institute of Technology. She can’t sing and she can’t dance, but she assures us she will give it a darn good try. And as she does, she delivers a quite hilarious one woman monologue/rant about the inevitability of inherit parental traits to which we can all reluctantly identify.
With three times as many works in the festival’s 2014 line-up, offerings were in a range of formats and styles traditional theatre, contemporary performance, play readings, work in progress showings, immersive and installed work, headphone works and more. I love it when shows are brought to life at interesting stages of development, as they experiment with new forms and styles, new media and new writing; and given the audience numbers lined up to see some shows, it appears that I am not the only one.
Festivals play an important role in raising profile of the performing arts industry in which public support is essential to success. As an audience member, not only do you get to help the future of theatre flourish, but if you are in it for the long haul, you are given the chance to experience some distinctive artistic voices, all for the price of an average theatre ticket.