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Byron Shire
May 10, 2021

Interview with Brett Haylock of the Brunswick Picture House

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Cheeky Cabaret

Brunswick Picture House  |  Friday and Saturday  |   7pm  |  $35/40/45

For more than three and a half years the Byron Shire has had the privilege of experiencing the world class cabaret of La Soiree via Cheeky Cabaret. When Chris Chen and Brett Haylock followed their dream and re-imagined a decommissioned coastal movie theatre, no one could have predicted that these two would also re-imagine creativity and community at the same time. In a very short time they’ve created a venue that is the heart and soul of Brunswick Heads.

Brett Haylock of the Brunswick Picture House and head honcho of Cheeky Cabaret and creative inceptions spoke with The Echo!

Can you tell us where it all began for the Brunswick Picture House and Cheeky Cabaret, where did the idea begin and how did you and your team get this amazing theatre and show to where it is now?

In 2004 I took a little subversive cabaret to the largest arts festival in the world in Edinburgh…that little show ignited on day one. It was called La Soirée. Over 8.5 million people have now seen the show and it has taken us around the world. We would be doing eight shows a week in all venues around the world, it was a very intense schedule… and then in our travels we came across this little, old, run down theatre in Brunswick Heads. It had been lying dormant for over 30 years. In that moment I had an epiphany, and I knew that life as we knew it for my partner Chris (on and off stage for the last 12 years) and I would never be the same again. After a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and help from our friends, we re-opened the Brunswick Picture House in Easter 2016. When we launched it made sense to bring a little bit of the magic that we had been presenting internationally to our new home.

We wanted a show that we could distinguish from our family programming, and we landed on the moniker of Cheeky Cabaret. And it is exactly that, a cheeky night out that is sexy, funny, dangerous… and always surprising.

Where did your love of this sort of theatre and performance begin?

There was not one showbiz bone in my family. I went to a small regional school of 300 (including staff) in SA, and it had a strong and inspiring drama program that punched above its weight and I was hooked from an early age.

What’s different about Cheeky Cabaret? What sets it apart from other variety shows people may see, both here in the area and in other parts of Australia if not the world?

We work hard to create an environment that is not like any other theatrical environment, and audiences respond accordingly. We are not concerned with the rules of conventional theatre and openly encourage a robust, immersive, interactive experience. A festive party vibe pervades a night out at the Picture House for Cheeky. We want people to feel comfortable and not intimidated.

Just as La Soirée has done for many years, the difference between Cheeky and other ‘variety shows’ is that we truly celebrate the weird and wonderful… many of our acts may have originated from the fringes of the performing arts world. The common thread is the generosity of spirit and heart that you witness throughout a performance… and this is very much aligned to the values of the Picture House.

Is it true that you have an entirely new cast of performers for each Cheeky show, each month? How do you keep this up and where do you find all these incredible performers?

Yes this is true. We create an entirely new show every month, which of course is another point of difference for us. Although after 3.5 years…some performers are now returning by popular demand.

I assemble a cast from all around Australia, along with touring international artists, and many are meeting each other for the first time. The craft of putting a show together has become instinctive and the process of consistently doing that is what comes naturally to me. At my age I don’t know how to do much, but this is what I do know and love.

We are really proud of a very diverse Spring program which is a mix of internationally recognised acts and homegrown talent. This coming weekend we have our monthly dose of Cheeky, and on Sunday afternoon, an event that we are all really excited about, our very first Picture House Tea Dance, celebrating the Golden Years. We then leap into Arrebato Ensemble, contemporary Flamenco with an edge, followed by two of Australia’s most adored singer-songwriters; Paul McDermott & Gatesy locking harmonies and minds on stage in their show Paul McDermott & Gatesy Go Solo in Brunswick Heads. We are thrilled to once again be an official venue for the Byron Bay Film Festival and have a really exciting program of films and documentaries. The next in our comedic line up; the much anticipated Josh Thomas with his Work in Progress. On the back of its successful inaugural festival this year, the Festival of the Voice returns with Shout Pray Sing, a celebration of the voice in its many forms. For Joni Mitchell fans we have the musical tribute Blue. Another returning Picture House production is Bruns’ Got Talent, back bigger and better this year in a collaboration with local college SAE… and then we round out the year with our Christmas Cheeky and our very popular Carols @ The House, where our Picture House transforms into The Church For All People.

We are really excited by what is to come. Our program is ever evolving, and the door is always open to our community if they have a great idea they want to pitch to us. Developing local talent and supporting the community is definitely an area that we are passionate about. We currently have weekly community life-drawing classes with Sketch Appeal and our much loved community choir, The Big Sing.

Catch Cheeky Cabaret at Brunswick Picture House Friday and Saturday at 7pm. Tix from brunswickpicturehouse.com

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