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Byron Shire
July 31, 2021

Interview with Julian Louis from NORPA

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NORPA presents Dreamland

NORPA presents Dreamland  |  Bangalow A&I Hall  |  15–25 May 7.30pm  |  $25–49

You’re dreamin’, Bangalow

When NORPA first staged Dreamland at Eureka Hall in 2016 almost two thousand people flocked to see it and it sold out in record time. The season had to be extended by many weeks, making it one of the theatre company’s most-loved original productions. Directed and devised by NORPA artistic director Julian Louis with writer Janis Balodis and a multi-talented cast, Dreamland has been re-imagined for the Bangalow A&I Hall. Julian Louis, NORPA’s artistic director, spoke with The Echo.

If our country halls could talk, what would they tell us?

That people need places to gather – to celebrate, to dance, to applaud, laugh and cry together. That people drink as much at wakes as at weddings and that dancing can be as good as sex. That dancing was once in pairs and now we thrash about on our own. That there was a time when you could dance with another’s partner without jealousy. That good bands get people dancing. In Dreamland dance is both a metaphor and a theme.

Dreamland tells the story of generations of people who have moved to this area. What is the attraction, do you think?

People have moved to this area for many different reasons but if there is a common thread, I guess it’s about carving out your own path and building something of your own – a house, a lifestyle, a business, a creative endeavour. In Dreamland we meet a couple who move here for their ‘dream’ life, but it’s not working out that way.

How does Dreamland bring the different performance streams together, ie dance, live music, physical theatre, etc?

We weave it all together in Dreamland ! Any show that tells the stories of our country halls has to include music and dance. So many of these halls hosted regular Friday and Saturday night dances, this is where the community came together; love was often found on the dancefloor. The live music in Dreamland transports the action across time from the 1940s to the present day.

What is it about site-specific work that excites you as a director? What is it that excites an audience, do you think?

It’s how the audience meets the works that excites me. It’s seeing the audience in this place on this night, coming together to hear a story being told. It’s a thrill to enter any space that isn’t normally a theatre and see it transformed. The site itself becomes part of the story and the experience. Our amazing production team led by Karl Johnson are going to transform Bangalow A&I Hall for Dreamland like never seen before. It will be like entering a dreamland!

What should local audiences expect? If they’ve seen the show at Eureka will they be getting something different?

In Dreamland you can expect to see characters you know and ones you’ve heard about, and maybe you will see yourself. You’ll see a bit of theatre magic with lots of laughs; you’ll hear brilliant music; and you’ll see seven kinds of dancing – you may even grace the floor yourself!

If you saw Dreamland at Eureka Hall you’ll be getting a much bigger, better show. As with any site-specific work the character of the space itself plays a huge role. Whereas Eureka Hall was tiny and intimate, Bangalow A&I Hall has a different charm – it has grandeur – and we are having a lot of fun incorporating that into the show.

Some of the narrative elements have changed, particularly with the Showman character played by Kirk Page; his character still sings ‘dream’ songs across time but he has new influence in the show’s action. Staging the show again with the same cast has given us this wonderful opportunity to improve, refine, and spark new ideas.

This incarnation of the live band is bigger and led by the wonderful Barry Hill, with Sue Simpson playing violin and the saw! As well as Hugo Jones and Angus Fletcher, two local musical prodigies from SCU. The band play jazz from the 40s to Jimi Hendrix to Beyoncé!

Book now to avoid missing out. 15–25 May at Bangalow A&I Hall. Tickets $25–49. Bookings to norpa.org.au.

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