I am a big fan of the Anywhere Theatre Festival and I've seen some unique shows over the years. This is the eighth year of the Anywhere Theatre in Brisbane and its second year on the Sunshine Coast. The organisers have told me that there are about 370 performances during the 2018 festival over 17 days. So how do you decide what to see? Here are some ideas to help you narrow down the shows to a manageable number over the coming weeks.
(image from Anywhere Theatre website)
Location This is a no-brainer as there are some locations which are convenient to get to because they are local, in your community, or near transport. You may choose to only see those in Brisbane or just the Sunshine Coast because of distance. The main Brisbane zones beside the CBD, are Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western Suburbs as well as Ipswich plus the Inner City suburbs like Paddo, the Valley and the Gabba. The Sunshine Coast locations include Noosa, Nambour, Mooloolaba, Buderim and Caloundra. (See at the end of the article for a list of the main suburbs).
As William Shakespeare said in As You Like It, "All the world's a stage". And that seems to be the festival's mantra. You won't find the shows in traditional theatres as the name indicates - anywhere, except in theatres. There are some large venues where you can maybe imagine a show being performed such as the Museum of Brisbane in the Brisbane City Hall and the Queensland Maritime Museum. But there are some quirky to downright weird venues such as on a battleship, a ferry, in a car park, suburban backyards and even in a Laundromat. Presenting shows in non-traditional spaces brings many challenges for the performers but that is all part of the fun. Some of the other interesting venues are the Paddington substation, a shopping centre, a bookshop, a warehouse, heritage homes and regular homes (which brings a new meaning to "home theatre"). One of my favourite venues is the mid-century Australian Modern house in Carina, which is hosting two shows this year: The Clints Come Again and To Sergio With Love. At a previous Anywhere Theatre, I saw the wonderful Barb Fordham singing the songs of Bessie Smith, the Empress of the Blues. It was a stunning performance in the perfect heritage setting. So try exploring an unusual venue for a different "theatre" experience.
Dome Room at Museum of Brisbane (image by May Cross)
Convenient time and date Okay, so you have chosen the location and the venue. Now, when can you go? You have two and a half weeks, from Thursday 10 to Sunday 27 May, to see a number of shows. Some people cram in as many as they can; others take it at a leisurely pace. I am planning to go to seven shows across the festival, mainly in the evenings and the weekend. The festival programme has a handy planner which lists date(s), time and duration of each show, which will make your selection simpler.
John Mills Himself Cafe and Bar is one of the AnyWhere Venues (image by May Cross)
Genre By genre is how people usually choose what shows they attend. What's your style and taste in entertainment? There will be plays, of course, but there is also comedy, installations, poetry, circus, dance, music of all sorts, cabaret, live art, storytelling, magic and so on. But many of the Anywhere Theatre performances defy traditional labels as they are so innovative or avant-garde. One example of the unexpected is that last year I went to a silver smithing workshop at DAP jewellery studios. Great fun and creative, sure, even theatrical, but rather an unusual event to find on a "theatre" programme. Bring on more I say.
Random picks If you are not so fussed about genre and have a sense of adventure, go random. Pin the tail on the donkey blindfolded or throw a dart at the planner and be surprised. You may discover the unexpected or the new, be amazed, pleased but rarely will you be disappointed. There is so much diversity out there and variety in size (some shows have a maximum of 30 tickets - so get in quickly) and quality of shows. You are sure to experience something different and I'm all about having experiences and enjoying myself. Go on, get out of your comfort zone and help nurture local talent.
Several shows are being hosted by the Planetarium (image from BCC website)
Cost Lucky you if you're not on a budget, but for the rest of us, we want to get the most out of our entertainment dollars. Fortunately, many of the performances are free and some are by donation, e.g. Potty Mouth in Woolloongabba. Here is a selection of free shows:
Ageless presented by Urban Puppet Project at Nambour.
Best Theatre You'll Never See Podcast.
The Box at Mt Ommaney Shopping Centre or UQ, St Lucia.
The Cube - art and sound installation, or Storyplace, both at Mooloolaba.
Fiesta flamenco in Marcoola.
Many other shows are cheap, from as little as $10 as they don't have the high overheads of traditional theatres, e.g. Abandoned at Nambour. The most expensive show at $60 is Full Steam Ahead, an interactive murder mystery at Eumundi and Spring Hill.
Word of mouth is usually a good indicator of what's hot and what's not. Listening to friends will be useful once the festival has started but if you are planning ahead here are a couple of my recommendations: 1. Dr Who Meets Dorothy is presented by Lee & Co at Nu Orleans, Blues Bar in Ipswich. Take a journey through the silver screen with The Doctor and the Wizard of Oz. It combines cabaret, comedy, burlesque, circus and dance with classic movie characters. I love the name.
Stroll the streets of Brisbane and discover many of the extraordinary female characters who have contributed to our city. Learn how challenges were faced and how innovation has been achieved in science, politics, education, employment and the arts. Novelist Rosa Praed is not your standard tour guide. You are sure to get some great photos during this "performance". Tours start at the School of Arts Building in Ann Street, Brisbane CBD.
You will meet Emma Miller on the HerStory Tour. (image by writer)
It's not so easy to read reviews of Anywhere Theatre until after the festival starts, as so many of the performances are brand new. However, there are some shows that have been showcased previously and so you will be able to find reviews online. One example is The Youngest I am Ever Going To Be by stand-up comic Ethan Andrews, which has had a season at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival but this is the show's Brisbane premiere. I will publish my reviews and original photos on Weekend Notes of all the shows I go to. (You can subscribe to me to ensure you don't miss them.)