Directed by Benjamin Roorda, book by James and Russell Tredinnick, orchestrated by Lindsay Kaul, choreography by Linda Aubrecht
Original Australian musicals are far and few in the theatre industry – recently however, there has been a resurgence in the number of stories that are wanting to be told. Bakery Hill: An Australian Rebellion is the latest addition to original works being created in the covid-recovering Australian society.
Using a story that most Australian students would have just briefly touched upon in their history classes, the Eureka Stockade, Yellow Line Productions aims to bring this story back to the forefront of Australian audiences’ minds, aiming to remind us that together, we can create change.
The story of the Eureka Rebellion is a tale of courage and conviction, commonly told with Peter Lalor as the central figure. However, father/son writing team, Russell and James Tredinnick, dug deeper to find the stories of the other diggers that were at the rebellion as well.
In their search, they found William Quinlan, the only Australian born man to be killed at the battle of the Stockade in 1854. This became their central focus for the entirety of the script: what other stories were out there to be told?
Through researching, they discovered a multitude of voices telling their own stories of love, loyalty and loss, hope, humour and of strength and sadness.
The result of the Tredinnick’s script, is a journey through a part of Australian history that has mostly been forgotten, and one which provides us with the basis of Australia’s multicultural society. Taking great inspiration from Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables (there is even a noticeable nod to the author in the beginning of the show), the production feels like Australia’s own slice of Hugo’s tale of rebellion. Although this sometimes felt as though it could have been stripped back a bit more – some scenes felt too much like we were simply watching Hugo’s work with an Australian face on it.
Bakery Hill: An Australian Rebellion’s journey from page to stage has been an arduous one, given the year that was 2020. Despite this, Yellow Line Productions have upheld their professionalism and devotion to the story of Bakery Hill throughout. This can be seen through their choice of theatre, the newly renovated Bryan Brown Theatre in Bankstown, the stunningly accurate production of costumes by Elizabeth Elwell-Cook and the consistently professional marketing campaign by Lauren Fleming, who also serves as Assistant Director.
Director Benjamin Roorda has produced a closely connected ensemble of characters on the Bankstown stage. Faced with the challenge of manoeuvring a cast of twenty-four in a small space, Roorda aims to provide each member of the cast with their own moment to add to the development of the overall story. This, mostly, works for Roorda, offering insightful directorial choices, such as a makeshift revolve in a tense scene, the establishment of different spaces in time, and the chance to allow Linda Aubrecht’s choreography to come through.
Although, given the restrictions of the space with which Roorda had to work with, it sometimes felt as though there may be a cacophony of bodies on stage, which would have offered the opportunity to trim cast in scenes to allow for a smoother and less clunky production.
The show itself will appeal to Australians wanting to delve deeper into forgotten parts of Australian history, or those looking for an original theatrical piece that explores that which makes us human – rebellion, loss and love.
The orchestrations of Bakery Hill, led by Linday Kaul, were impressive to say the least, particularly for an original piece of work. It was noticeable that some songs were inspired by the likes of Stephen Schwartz and Claude-Michel Schönberg, which meant that some songs drifted into one another and some were not fully memorable. Despite this, the songs that were the strongest were the ones that felt originally developed and built the characters’ journeys throughout the production – the stockade-building finale left audiences humming the tune on their way to intermission.
Leading the story throughout were James Tredinnick’s Henry “Charles” Ross, Jordan Stam’s Bridget Callinan, Matteo Persechino’s William Quinlan, Levi Burrow’s Robert Rede and Thomas Weaver’s Peter Lalor.
Tredinnick’s portrayal of Ross dug deep into his suave and loveable Canadian nature. It was clear that Tredinnick’s research on his character allowed him to own the space with a comfortability that was consistent throughout.
Bouncing off Tredinnick was Stam as the Irish, good natured Bridget Callinan. Stam’s duets with Tredinnick were artfully sung and allowed for a consistent character investment throughout the entirety of the production.
Proving themselves to be skilled singers and confidently established actors, the trio of Persechino, Burrow and Weaver were arguably the strongest singers throughout. Whether it was Persechino’s belting solos from his youthfully ignorant character, Burrow’s Javier-esque baritone, or Weaver’s imposingly belting Peter Lalor – the three managed to notice when technical issues occurred and professionally worked their way around them.
Whilst the performance was a preview production and final dress run for the cast, it was undoubtedly noticed that technical issues were an issue that needed addressing throughout. With the majority of character’s mics not turned on from the beginning of the show, important dialogue and lines in the ensemble songs were missed. More fine tuning before opening night would help boost these lapses throughout the production.
Bakery Hill – An Australian Rebellion is a fine addition to the original works of Australian theatre and one which has legs (after some editing and fine tuning) to travel to theatres throughout the country. The show itself will appeal to Australians wanting to delve deeper into forgotten parts of Australian history, or those looking for an original theatrical piece that explores that which makes us human – rebellion, loss and love.
Bakery Hill – An Australian Rebellion opens tonight (April 15) at the Bryan Brown Theatre, Bankstown. Event times and ticket information below, as well as links to the show’s current fundraising campaign.
EVENT DATE & TIME:
Thursday 15th April 2021
Evening Show: 7:30pm
Friday 16th April 2021
Matinee Show: 2:00pm
Evening Show: 7:30pm
Saturday 17th April 2021
Matinee Show: 2:00pm
Evening Show: 7:30pm
Concession & Children (under 12 years ): $35pp
Early Bird Special (available until 14 November only): $40pp
Group 10+: $40pp
Children (under 12 months): Free
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About the author
Justin is an actor, writer, teacher and European tour guide. Raised in Western Sydney, he always had an avid love for theatre and the spontaneous. Being a Drama and English trained teacher, Justin has developed his writing for publishers such as Theatre People and ArtsHub. Justin’s past theatre credits include directing Stiles and Drew’s Soho Cinders, the ‘brave’ Sir Robin in Spamalot for Arcadians Theatre and the French Taunter/Tim in Spamalot for Springers UK, and his debut role as Muldoon in Jurassic: That is One Big Pile of Musical. As the years have gone by, Justin has taken a great interest in swallowing as much theatre as he can and bringing it to the masses through the establishment of Theatre Thoughts.