Being There: On Tour

An enormously important and formative experience in my life as a young actor was that of being on tour for many weeks, and schools’ tours at that. It was 1971, and I was fresh from drama school in the UK, and back home in Queensland. The new state theatre company (Queensland Theatre Company or QTC as it was and still is known fondly) had been formed while I was away. I immediately auditioned, and was hired to work in the TIE (Theatre in Education) program which in those days had a touring schedule to knock your socks off … and which dispelled any preciousness you might have been harbouring since drama school about being an artiste.

The upshot was a series of touring gigs during the first half of the 70s which took me to places I would never have seen had it not been for QTC and QAC (Queensland Arts Council) which still operates touring within the state. QAC is one of the quiet achievers in Australia’s cultural life. In any week, there can be up to a dozen QAC productions playing somewhere in the state.

Back in the 1970s we did a very special tour and one I’ll never forget. It took us way out there into the outback. Right through Cape York Peninsula, into Arnhem Land, the islands off northern Australia, the Red Centre, Alice Springs, and right across to the West Australian border at Wave Hill. During that tour, I played for and learned from the indigenous people in those regions, as well as from anthropologists, missionaries, teachers and my fellow actors. Having to pack up, fly out, unpack, perform, socialise, pack up, fly-out, bump over tracks through the bush (get the idea) for weeks on end can be both exhilarating and exhausting. It certainly teaches discipline both personal and professional. The lessons I learned during that time have never been forgotten.

I got this video this morning from a small, three-person QAC team working a schools tour in Western Queensland. In a small way it reflects something of the life on tour for an actor. It hints at lessons learned for young city-born and bred artists when they hit the open road on that incredible experience. They’re documenting the experience on YouTube and elsewhere.

The young actor narrating is Edward Foy. He is the son of the late Murray Foy, the then-Associate Director of Queensland Theatre Company, and the man who employed and directed me for those gigs back in the 1970s. What goes round comes around I guess. Reader, I married him.






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