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April 21, 2021

Interview with Julian Louis, Artistic Director of NORPA

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Check out NORPA’s program for 2020

NORPA Program

It’s the big reveal that theatre and dance lovers in the region look forward to every year – what’s NORPA got in store for the year ahead? All was revealed at their 2020 launch last week.

Artistic Director, Julian Louis takes great care in assembling a program that challenges his audience. ‘When I’m thinking about the stories we make, and the original theatre, and the privilege of bringing works here, I think about the audience in this region and how they love to be challenged. It is a privilege to create works that are often using symbolism and abstraction. Audiences here enjoy the sophistication of theatre. But the theatre is for everyone – it speaks to the entire community in all their diversity’, he says. NORPA’s program is always exceptionally robust.

‘The works we present aren’t always plays. A minority are literary texts. A lot of projects are from the collaborative process. For example Backbone with Nimbin-based director, Darcy Grant, is one of the most incredible contemporary circus acts you will see in your life. It’s built out of collaboration and rebellion.’

NORPA 2020 will also welcome comedian Jonathan Biggins as Paul Keating with The Gospel According to Paul, celebrated Bell Shakespeare with Comedy of Errors, explosive physical theatre company Legs on the Wall with their award-winning work The Man with the Iron Neck (co-directed by Brunswick Heads-based creative, Josh Bond, with set design by Main Arm-based Joey Ruigrok.)

The Man with the Iron Neck is a powerful story inspired by the death of a sibling by suicide. But this is about the strength of a family and plays against a parallel story of a guy who used to jump off high points, with a noose around his neck, as a circus performance.

Among the twelve shows now on sale is new NORPA original work, Flow, created by Yaegl-Bundjalung man, Mitch King. Flow is a yarn about Yaegl country. It’s an urban tale of finding identity in music and hip hop, a personal story of family pride and friendship, and it’s an ancient story about the water that flows through this country.

‘This is Mitch’s solo show about his relationship to water. He is reflecting on the stories he was told as a child, and telling them differently. Told through hip hop and dance – his main collaborator is big Teddy – and they are fantastic hip hop performers and music makers. If you have an interest in the region where you live and you want to connect to country more, this is the show to see; It tells ancient stories with hip hop,’ says Julian.

There is also theatre on offer that Julian believes will be embraced by people across the community, like The Gospel According to Paul, performed by Jonathan Biggins. ‘He does the best satire of Paul Keating. He will get your mind buzzing!’ Says Julian.

Animal Farm by Shake & Stir from Brisbane is another show for people who like to see influential literature on stage.

With works by Bell Shakespeare, Brunswick Picture House’s Cheeky Cabaret, and a collaboration between Michael Hennessy and Sprung!! dancers, the program offers something for everyone.

Self-produced work is what Julian is proudest of.

‘Around half of these works are inspired by local artists – that makes us different from other regional theatres. We are one of five companies in regional Australia who make our own work in a venue like this [and who are] growing. We find the making of the work connects us to audiences that we wouldn’t have [otherwise] met, [who come to] see a local work by an original artist.’

The expansion and innovations at the venue have also contributed to Julian’s ability to book a diverse program.

‘What we are delivering now, and how it’s grown, is not just programming – it’s about how we develop the venue. It’s had $7.5 million dollars spent, and people will notice the improvements – $1.3 million was spent on lighting and sound upgrades alone!’

Growing and evolving the cultural life of Lismore is at the heart of the NORPA 2020 program. For more information, and to book tickets, go to norpa.org.au.


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