The Anywhere Festival was founded in 2011 with the noble aim of reducing the barriers of entry to live performance for Brisbane artists.
I can attest to the fact that it has done this solidly for more than a decade. As a producer, director, and performer based in Brisbane, I can tell you that this little-festival-that-could is an essential part of my yearly calendar.
I’m writing this piece to give you a personal perspective on this wonderful Brisbane initiative and encourage you to experiment with it this May.
You will, no doubt, have heard of the cliche of “the starving artist”. It’s almost seen as a requirement for the profession, right?
What’s not a joke is how expensive live performance is to make compared to how much you can make FROM it. Many people don’t realise how costly putting on even the simplest live theatre, comedy, dance and music can be.
Venue hire is expensive—if you can find a venue at all! Many of Brisbane’s traditional theatre spaces come at a premium and are often booked out well in advance. Even many pubs or clubs that once allowed performers to use spare rooms for free or low-cost have shifted to set hire fees, or minimum bar spends. While this is understandable – our friends in hospitality need to make a living too—it reduces the number of places where creative people can create.
This is where Anywhere Festival steps in, using its status as a festival to attract unconventional venues to offer themselves up as test sites for exciting, strange, dynamic, quirky, and even downright bizarre forms of performance. Kudos to those venues who jump at the chance to showcase local work in their spaces – generally for free or very low cost. It’s a critically important factor that allows emerging writers, performers, directors and producers to cut their teeth. And that means…
You can break down Australia’s live performance industry into three distinct groups: the majors; the small-to-mediums; and the independents. Imagine this as a reverse pyramid, with a whole bunch of scrappy starters with big ideas and few dollars at the bottom, funnelling up through to the prestige companies at the top. The higher you go, the more chance there is of money. But there’s also more risk.
Dive into the independent pool, and you’ll find lots of weird and wonderful stuff that people are doing because they WANT TO. They’re exploring, developing, and taking risks. Which means, as an audience, that YOU ARE TOO. Think about it! You’re curious, and there’s a smorgasbord of curiosities that await you. You might see something strange that unnerves you. You might see something unexpected that delights you. You might see something you hate – or worse, something that bores you.
But think of it like exercise. Trying different types of exercise is good for your body. Trying different types of theatre experiences is good for your brain. It makes you a more well-rounded person. The kind of person who values…
Many Anywhere Festival theatre shows are comparable in price to going to the cinemas. But who does that regularly anymore? You stay at home with streaming services, don’t you? Hell, I love myself some hot Britbox action.
But night after night on the couch in my pyjamas can get a little… same-y. We’re all storytellers in our own way, and by getting out of the house and seeing/doing stuff, you refill your story tank. You can talk to family, friends, colleagues, social media connections about your adventures outside the house, and the good, the great, the bizarre and, yes, sometimes, the
bad thing you saw.
Those stories are with you for life. Not too shabby for a $20 to $40 price tag. Which brings me to my final point…
Here’s a few highlights of this year’s program:
Hanz On Experience
You can sit in the studio with a famous photographer as he plans his next glamorous session.
Wizards in the Park
You can play wizards for a day with a free mini-festival in Samford.
Into the Light
You can see a Greek myth-inspired meditation on social media at former paint factory.2AM: The Extended Cut
2AM: The Extended Cut
You can explore the home and talk to the characters at the centre of a love triangle.
Angel Strings at the Planetarium
Listen to classical music while you gaze at the stars and planets.
Whistling Past the Graveyard
Learn about the history of funerals and what happens at the end of our lives in an actual
Eco-Worrier: A Climate Cabaret
See ecological collapse-inspired cabaret at the offices of The Wilderness Society.
The Importance of Being Wasted
And of course, I wouldn’t be a good producer if I didn’t plug my own show, The Importance of Being Wasted. It’s a spirited take on Oscar Wilde’s classic comedy of manners The Importance of Being Earnest—except two different actors are drunk each night. It is riotously funny, unpredictable and never the same twice (because drunk people make weird choices). I am so proud of this show, and grateful to Anywhere Festival for championing it.
Whatever takes your fancy, I encourage you to take a chance on someone else’s story, so you can have some new ones of your own.
Note: Embrace Brisbane journalist Elizabeth Best is also in The Importance of Being Wasted.