Yellow Line Theatre Productions is hard at work preparing for the premiere of their new Australian written musical Bakery Hill – An Australian Rebellion. With the musical not far away (the media night being scheduled for the 14th April) the production team have begun a fundraising campaign via Indiegogo in hopes that an educational tour of the show can be possible as well as being able to have the show’s soundtrack professionally recorded.
Four members of the cast of Bakery Hill sat down to talk about the new original Australian production ahead of their opening night. Tisha Kelemen (playing Anastasia Hayes, a digger), Thomas Weaver (playing Peter Lalor, a digger and one of the leaders of the rebellion), Jordan Stam (playing Bridget Callinan, a digger) and Levi Burrows (playing Robert Rede, Gold Commissioner of Ballarat Gold Fields) share their thoughts on the history of Bakery Hill and their characters within the story itself.
The story of Eureka, as written into history, is very much male dominated, and very much the story of the under-dog. How does this re-telling change that, and specifically – how does your character’s role change in this?
Tisha Kelemen: This retelling shifts the focus from a singular “hero” narrative to a more collective view. My character – Anastasia Hayes – has largely been relegated in the history books being the wife of one of the movement’s leader. However, given she was an educated rebel from Ireland – and that she continued to fight for social justice after the rebellion – I agree with several other historians who believe that she likely played a larger & trusted role in the movement
Thomas Weaver: Bakery Hill sheds a new light into the influence and impact that the women had in ensuring the freedom of the gold miners in eureka. It shows that, at the time, men’s voices were the ones that were heard, but that does not mean that, they were the only ones with stories to tell. My character (Peter Lalor) was often seen as the hero, this show puts him in a new light. Though he is still considered as a leader, the audience is forced to reconsider whether he is a true hero or a man driven by a need for status and power.
Jordan Stam: I think that Bridget Callinan adds both an important female perspective but she also brings forth a differing perspective from both the men and women around her. Bridget does not entirely support the rebellion. Her purpose in this story is to illustrate how not every individual present at the eureka stockade was either 100% for it or against it. Bridget illuminates the shades of grey, she weighs up the cost of human life against the goals of the rebellion and as a result adds dynamic layers to the piece.
Levi Burrows: Australia has always had a history of cheering for the underdog. It’s built into our culture and the Eureka Stockade is certainly that. The show does a wonderful job at showing both sides of the conflict at Eureka through the eyes of Robert Rede who has gone down in history as “The villain of the story” while not entirely untrue the show aims to have you walking out asking yourself what you would have done if placed in the same impossible scenario.
What makes this retelling of the Eureka Story different and worth sharing in the 21st century?
Jordan Stam: I think we are at a point in time where we are really examining how much of our ‘history’ as we know it is incomplete, falsely remembered or told from a narrow male perspective. This story aims to widen our understanding of the events that unfolded during Eureka, it goes beyond what myself and so many other young Australians learnt in our year 5 classrooms. It serves to include women, people of colour and also highlight the flaws of individuals who we are times blindly hold up as heroes. This story successfully shines light into parts of this story that have for so long been kept in the dark.
Levi Burrows: One question was asked when we started working on Bakery Hill during the read through process of the show was “Who has heard of the Eureka Stockade?” Nearly every hand shot up in the air. They followed up with “Who can tell us what happened at the Eureka Stockade?” Almost every hand dropped. In a world where tickets to a show about one of the men who drafted the Declaration of Independence can be sold out for over a year in advance, I think this may be the perfect time to tell this story of a bunch of misfits fighting to make things better in their small part of the world.
How does your character influence others within the show?
Tisha Kelemen: Anastasia Hayes was a “firebrand” of the gold fields – her straight talking and fearlessness seeks to inspire others to action.
Jordan Stam: The character of Bridget is interesting because she steps away from everyone in the show and this decision results in her being incredibly isolated. She seeks to find a solution without violence, but this enrages her fellow diggers as they believe her to be a traitor. Yet, by breaking ties with the diggers she is able to reason with and get through to the other side and does so somewhat successfully.
Levi Burrows: The interesting thing about Robert Rede is also the most tragic and that is how hard he tries to sway the two parties involved in the conflict and finds his words fall on deaf ears and throughout his arc you see what happens when the diggers keep pushing the one person who was holding back the full might of the English crown.
How has your character transferred from history to the stage?
Tisha Kelemen: I read A LOT – every account about Anastasia I could find. All of that information painted a picture of a strong, intelligent woman who had seen hardship and wanted better for herself, her family and community. A woman who was unafraid to speak out loudly, who did not wait for things but made things happen.
Thomas Weaver: Historically, Lalor is the loudest voice therefore the story with the most renown. His voice is dulled so other, arguably more important voices can be heard.
Jordan Stam: There are many holes in Bridget’s story and I believe these gaps have been filled with as much respect for the historical evidence as possible. I like to think that the writing and portrayal of Bridget is as authentic as we can get and now it is up to me to fill in all the details and in doing so bring to life her essence. It is my hope that through connecting to her stories of hope, joy and grief that we are able to learn something about our own humanity.
TICKETS ON SALE NOW
Bakery Hill – An Australian Rebellion by Yellow Line Productions
Bryan Brown Theatre, Bankstown, NSW
Limited Season Only
April 15 // 7:30pm
April 16 // 2:00pm & 7:30pm
April 17 // 2:00pm & 7:30pm
Adults // $45pp
Concession // $35pp
10+ Group // $40pp
Patrons can support Yellow Line Theatre by donating to their Indiegogo campaign here.