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May 7, 2021

Zombie wombats on the prowl

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Zombie wombats attack a caravan park. What more do you need to know? Except that Zombatland is the new show by cult theatre group The Suitcase Royale. With insane stories, live original music and sets made from found and ‘junkyard’ objects, they have created a style so unique that it’s rare to see the Melbourne troupe perform back home as festivals all over the world demand their inventive and warped live shows.

Mandy Nolan chats with troupe member Joseph Neil O’Farrell about The Suitcase Royale and animals that look like hairy bums with faces.

What is ‘junkyard theatre’? Theatre that is literally created by junk that we find on the side of the road. But we also created the term to describe our style of theatre in performance, as it incorporates everything music, comedy, theatre, inventions. It’s a junkyard of possibilities.

Best junk find? In one day we found a full penguin outfit and miniature motorbike for the penguin to ride on… awesometown!

How do you incorporate music into your theatre works? Live music is fully integrated into our shows. We are a band and a theatre company at the same time, so expect some toe-tappin’ tunes when you come along to check out our show.

What famous musician would you say each person in your trio is most like and why? Well I am a Springsteen man myself. Then I would say: Glen – Weird Al Yankovic and Miles is a big Kasey Chambers fan, so a male equivalent probably.

You’ve toured internationally – what do you think makes your works appealing to international audiences? Any tour stories? I think audiences really like the iconic Australian nature of our work. As for touring stories, well, we’ve been lost in the Arizona desert, chased down the streets of Dresden by a stalker in Germany and recently did a private soundcheck for Neve Campbell in London. It’s always interesting at Royale HQ.

What sort of stories capture your imagination? Stories of the backyard tinkerer, the characters that exist in small Australian towns. Movies like Wake in Fright and the Cars That Ate Paris. We can’t wait to get to Lismore!

How do you develop a show? It takes a lot of time, you have to go to the bridge of insanity and back…

Zombie wombats – where did that idea come from? We read an article about families camping and being woken up in the middle of the night by the growls of big fat wombats trying to get into their tents to get their food. We thought it would be funny to make a show about evil wombats. They are animals that look like big hairy bums with faces. We kind of mixed that with inspirations from the Ozploitation movie of the ’60s and ’70s.

What can audiences expect from Zombatland? A fast, fun show with great music. It’s like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. We start the show in a normal Australian environment then open the wardrobe into this strange place where zombie wombats are running amok. We pride Zombatland on being a great first date show, so find someone you want to pash and get a ticket!

The Suitcase Royale perform Zombatland at Norpa Lismore City Hall on Saturday 21 April, 7.30pm tickets www.norpa.org.au or call 1300 066 772. Patron advice: adult themes! Tickets: adult $37, conc $30, under 18 $16.50, student rush $20 at the door.

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