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The Apology at Boggo Road Gaol - Theatre Review

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by Emilie Rosa (subscribe)
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The Apology at Boggo Road Gaol is a must see
I'd never heard of the Anywhere Theatre Festival (Brisbane) until I was invited to attend the theatre production The Apology. I found it strange that I hadn't heard of this festival, as I spent a few years working in the arts (theatre in particular).

I did a little research and found out that the Anywhere Theatre Festival has only been taking place since 2011 (relatively new), which is why it may not be as well known – but don't let this influence you, for this festival is just as sweet (albeit short at two weeks long). The festival is not-for-profit and has a great vision 'to propel a world-wide trend for exciting, engaging, passionate theatre anywhere but traditional theatre spaces'. And I was certainly taken to a place I least expected for The Apology, which was definitely a sweet surprise.

The Apology is being shown at Boggo Road Goal, from Tuesday 12 May until Saturday 23 May 2015. At first I wasn't certain about the choice of venue – a creepy old jail, potentially haunted, at night-time. But on the evening I found out the jail was far less creepy than I had anticipated – in fact it was actually kind of cool, well lit and not haunted…as far as I could tell. Also, I soon discovered, this is a perfect location for The Apology, with a large part of the show being set in the jail – it was a nice touch.

Boggo Road Gaol (image courtesy of

Before the show the actors came around and mingled with the guests. Only a small section of the jail was open, but it included a small section of courtyard. You could have a walk around, look into some of the cells and take a seat. There were also barrels to lean against or have a drink (if you brought one with you). After speaking with the actors I discovered this main area was the recreational part of the jail. I also discovered that the show was being shown in high schools, yet the show appeals to a much larger audience.

The show takes place in Z cell block and when you walk into the theatre space the atmosphere is really set. You see a large set of stairs in the middle of the room, surrounded by cells. The stage setup is minimalist; there is a small black stand with a bus two seater on top. But there is no need for elaborate props (as I learnt). The sheer powerfulness of the venue and actors well covers any need for elaborate decorations - it is raw theatre at its best. They also use music (a single electric guitar) to welcome the guests in and effectively set the mood for other scenes.

Cell Block where the show takes place (image courtesy of

The story follows high school student Ray Bones, who is relentlessly bullied by his 'buddies' and their ring leader 'Eneme'. On an excursion to Boggo Road Gaol, Ray is locked in a cell and tormented in the days that follow. Taking his fathers advice Ray fights back and things spiral out of control from there. The story doesn't just examine the short-term effects of bullying; it follows the long term physiological impacts. The story ricochets through a five-year period, where the bullying bruises continue to be beaten into Ray, until he is pushed too far. It also explores the concept of revenge and how, in the long term, revenge is never the right course of action.

Growing up in Australia and having been a high school student not that long ago (or so I think), I can say the script is honest and a fair portrayl of some of the torment students can go through in a high school environment. The story is also unbiased, which is clever because it shows that the victim also plays a large role in the way events unfold. The Apology strongly explores how life can be unfair, as well as other issues such as mateship, alcohol fuelled violence, revenge, decision-making, consequences and family dynamics.

There are 18 characters, played by two actors, Sam Foster and Hayden Jones (directed by Stefo Nantsou). The actors dynamically switch in and out of roles, which is a skillful art. You will see everything from a flamboyant gay man, to your stock standard high school teacher and typical high school jock. The actors never leave the stage or change costumes – they wear shorts and black t-shirts throughout. Except for Hayden Jones who cleverly manipulates a cap to portray different characters - it is both clever and effective.

Actors Sam Foster and Hayden Jones (image courtesy of

In summary, the show uses physical theatre techniques, multiple role-sharing and live music to create a dynamic piece of theatre. A lot is done with very little. This seems to be the way of Zeal Theatre, who organised the show. Originally, The Apology was published by Playlab in 2009 and is on Education Queensland's Recommended Reading List.

Having seen a lot of theatre, I can honestly say I was more than impressed. I was entertained, moved and convinced. The script is concise and well written, but with the right direction, the brilliant work of the actors and the right venue The Apology is a very memorable piece of theatre. If your looking with a show with substance, please go see this show.

But you will need to be swift as The Apology has limited shows and everything raps up on Saturday 23 May - so get in quick! Details are available here.

The Anywhere Theatre Festival takes place in Brisbane from Thursday 7 May until Sunday 24 May 2015. It takes place in a range of venues heritage buildings, parks, suburban houses, flower shops, swimming pools, art galleries, a strip club, somebody's porch and a mystery location that is only revealed upon booking.

The Anywhere Theatre Festival also takes place in Paramatta from Thursday 8 May until Sunday 17 May 2015.
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*Emilie Rosa was invited as a guest
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