Nicholas Morton-Paine and Helen Stephens

Week 1 and 2
Playing with puppets this week has been extraordinary. At first. Ahhh. Confronting. My hands don’t work! The intricacies … The pieces of the puppet go one way and I seem to go the other.

My first job this week was to inhabit the pigeon…get down on my haunches…keep up the yoga…

The pigeons are a work of art. Intricate pieces welded together with many moving pieces. Each puppet has a cup with the puppets name on, because we are
‘working them in’ and so screws cannot be too tight…as a result we have little bolts etc. falling off every now and then. We collect them and they are ready for Sam to fix at the end of the day. By the time we open the puppets will be fine tuned and tightened: we will be used to the puppets and the puppets will be used to us.

The Dead Puppet Society

We add pigeon sounds (“not sure about this…can’t roll the tongue so well”)…practice makes perfect so I am rolling on a regular basis.

Then there is my squirrel. Delicious. Love her. “Squerl” is tiny, rambunctious, energetic and fast moving (typecast?). She is teaching me about detail. Every action needs to be precise. The move of the head, the flick of the tail, the tips of her paws…

This is ridiculously fun…more than fun…puppets make us focused yet fluid, joyful yet task driven.

We are nearly the end of our second week. I can feel the ensemble growing, led by a terrific team of artists: David (picture above) and Nick (picture below with the artistic associate of the company Helen Stephens).

Sam has multiple skills and one of them is fixing our puppets

Sam has multiple skills and one of them is fixing our puppets

We are all in the rehearsal room, encouraging, offering suggestions, thoroughly enjoying the process of collaborative practice[/caption]

Our ensemble consists of four male artists and three female artists, hardly avoidable when you consider the subject matter. I get to play many roles that are male, which is a delight…we are all sailors, then we have our Cameo roles that move the story forward. We operate puppets throughout the show at the same time, which is the beautiful brand of Dead Puppet Society: the puppets and puppeteers are both very visible, working together to create magic.

David in directing mode

David in directing mode

“He Dreamed A Train”, a play about belonging: nominated Best Technical Design, Matilda Awards 2014

“It pushes the boundaries, creates a new kind of experience, a multi-media performance in which actors and technicians play with and off each other in a mind-blowing interdependency. Designer/director Benjamin Knapton juggles this kaleidoscope of form and function with firm control, never allowing the possibility of chaos, which is lurking in the background, to take over. For all its intricacy it’s a tightly disciplined production, with neither actors nor stage effects dominating the other”.

What is happening at FORCE OF CIRCUMSTANCE?

FORCE OF CIRCUMSTANCE (FOC) is a new Theatre Company: Australia’s first professional, intentional, intergenerational theatre company.
It has been created to ensure that the wisdom of our theatrical tribe,
from all the generations, is nourished and transformed.
Each production embraces multiple generations of actors, creatives and
crew. As a senior artist, my greatest teachers are the younger creatives and actors with whom I work: we teach each other what it is to be fully alive with every cell firing. The younger artists keep the senior artists up to speed with popular culture and contemporary performance making and we like to share the traditions of theatre making and performance training to ensure that the rituals and processes that have been around for generations continue, updated and relevant.

“He Dreamed a Train” is the first production that FORCE OF CIRCUMSTANCE (FOC) has co-produced. In July 2015 we will be co-producing HOME, as part of the DIVA series at Queensland Theatre Company. We have a couple of creative developments in the mix for 2015-2016.


This play, He Dreamed a Train (HDAT), began in 2012 as a LabRat. Ian
Lawson, Executive Director of PlayLab read a proposal and decided to
support it. We worked together for a few months and it was his
belief and encouragement that prompted an application for Work in
Residence at Metro Arts in 2013. HDAT, then called “Man in Quotation
Marks” had a wonderful year of incubation. Kieran Swann (Programming
Manager Metro Arts) and Liz Burcham (then CEO of Metro Arts) created
multiple opportunities for us to work with leading Australian theatre
makers/producers including Leisa Shelton, Carol Burns,
Ian Lawson, Andrea Moor, Steven Mitchell Wright, Dave Sleswick, David
Morton, Sandro Collarelli, Chris Beckey, Lucy-Anne Langlilde, Deborah
Leiser–Moore, Michael Coughlan and Leticia Caceres.
This was followed by a trip to Omaha Nebraska to present a reading of the
play at the Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed Conference. On return,
Kris Stewart and Brisbane Powerhouse offered us a place in the inaugural
SWEET program. Thank you BPH, and thank you Metro Arts for you continued
support. Both BPH and Metro Arts have funded this production of HDAT.

As writer, I depend a lot on the wisdom of the tribe: The idea for the play was directly inspired by my brother, David Brown, who wrote a novel by the same name. Writers such as Herman Hesse have been used as stimuli and some of his ideas have been collaged into the piece. I have also borrowed from my two previous works EVE: Part 1 (inspired by Eve Langley) and HOME Part 2 (inspired by Brisbane!) as well as Peter Turchi and his ideas on mental mapping.

Most of all, I have been inspired by my family: my brother David Brown and my second son Travis Ash who rewrote “The Myth of Er” and composed the soundscape. Thank you to my long time husband Bill Ash, for without you none of this could even happen: thank you for your executive producing skills and ongoing personal support.

I have also been truly inspired by Ben Knapton, who has worked tirelessly for the last 20 months in so many capacities (director/producer/dramaturg/designer) as we created a show that combines traditional storytelling with contemporary performance making.


Rosemary Walker, our FOC publicist, for creating wonderful opportunities to ‘get the word out’; Rose knows everyone in Brisbane! Gabrielle Castle, Rebecca (Bec) Ward and Aimee Dittmer for their continuous support: Bec for her beautiful photos (seen on BPH Website)and Gabby for her Assistant Stage Management; Leah Mercer (director of the first two award winning shows of the trilogy, Eve and HOME and long distance dramaturg on HDAT) for her constant belief in our work; Freddy Komp for his expertise as Extraordinary Production Manager and Stage Manager; Nathan Sibthorpe as delicious Image Whisperer; Jess Ross who executed Ben Knapton’s beautifully simple design; Aaron Barton who built the set (Aaron also built EVE’s set); and Linda Yamada for being there in Pullenvale. I also want to give a big thank you to all the partners of the FOC creatives: your generosity and understanding is duly noted! Finally all the generous artists who worked with us over the last 20 months: Leisa Shelton, Carol Burns, Andrea Moor, Steven Mitchell Wright, Dave Sleswick, David Morton, Sandro Collarelli, Chris Beckey, Lucy-Anne Langlilde, Leah Mercer, Ian Lawson, Kieran Swann, Deborah Leiser–Moore, Bev Jensen, Michael Coughlan and Leticia Caceres.


So as some of you may know, after four decades of theatre making, I am now training myself in the wild world of producing. My first attempt is to attend Artour and ‘sell’

HOME: A Story of Belonging

MARGI in the Redwood Forest

MARGI in the Redwood Forest


First of all, here is a glimpse of what HOME is: I wrote these notes as an introduction to the performance excerpt, twelve minutes of a collaged version of HOME: to remind some of you who have seen the show, and to whet the appetite of those who have not yet seen it. Due to time limitations it could not be used, so hey, I will publish them instead!

The idea of HOME, a story about belonging, began when my youngest daughter was living in Palestine, witnessing homes being bulldozed and people being removed from homes where they’d been living for generations.
It was in stark contrast to life in Brisbane: “the place we love to hate and hate to leave”…

And so in 2011, I gathered a team of dedicated artists and we began our journeys HOME.

• 3 creative developments in Chicago, Mexico and downtown Brisbane at Metro Arts Theatre
• An indie season up the hill at La Boite
• A Gold Matilda Award and multiple other nominations
• The creation of a new company “Force of Circumstance” – Queensland’s 1st specifically multi-generational theatre company
• Secret ongoing negotiations for another Brisbane season in 2015 (Shhh)
• The HOME team are ready to share their work throughout Queensland and to hear more stories of HOME from around the State: so here we are at ARTOUR SHOWCASE!


1. ARTOUR caters extremely well!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Ab.Fab. Catering Team did a brilliant job at keeping the wolf from the door: and I was hard to please, being a coeliac. Thank you Ab.Fab!!! Brilliant!

2. JO CURREY, ARTOUR’s Tour Producer, was a terrific organiser of the event: Jo answered tens of emails, sometimes on a Sunday evening! I was researching in Greece until five days before the showing, so everything was arranged at the oddest times, yet Jo still managed to address each issue with enormous care and respect.

3. PREPARE PREPARE PREPARE: As a new producer, I think I needed to write to the Presenters of shows BEFORE the conference. The producers who had toured before had a HUGE advantage in that they knew who the folks were who presented work.

I had no idea!

Meetings were happening everywhere, except in my ‘own back yard’! I think this is easily rectified by getting a list of the presenters who are coming to Artour Marketplace, and sending them a friendly hello.

4. BE ON TIME: Due to ridiculous jet lag I missed the opening session. As a result I felt an hour or two behind all day! Make sure you are there early enough so you get the lay of the land BEFORE the action begins.

5. GET CARDS PRINTED, both postcards and business cards: these were a great asset. I went on line to Vistaprint. Being a newbie, it had to be simple. And it was: I selected a design, filled in my details and pressed send. In three days I had cards and postcards delivered to my door!

6. FIND A PRODUCING MENTOR: this is a hard gig, though extremely friendly. With colleagues supporting you, it is much easier for the Newbie. By email, I had approached two wonderful women who were very skilled at producing. Both of them offered very useful advice, not only beforehand but throughout the actual day.

7. DON’T TRY TO DO IT ALONE!!!!!! I have marvellous creatives who came on board to create HOME’s visual presentations, set up the selling table and the performance as well as ‘call’ the performance. Bring your theatrical community with you!!!! It means that you can just put on your performer hat when the performing time comes. Have your creative team help work the crowd!

8. FOLLOW UP IMMEDIATELY: again, work collaboratively. Leah Mercer, my working partner, and I write collaboratively: I write something, send it to her, she adds to it, sends it to me and this continues till we are satisfied. Theatre making is a collaborative art form, and I think producing has to be collaborative also!

9. DON’T PANIC: i think a lot of work can be done after the fact. Four companies (including HOME team) were chosen to show a short extract of their work in the evening after dinner break. This happened four hours AFTER the presenters had gathered together to discuss what they were interested in purchasing: now this was a difficult thing to hear! We had not even shown our work!

After voicing our concerns, we were assured that this would be addressed, and I feel confident it will be. I approached the creative broker of Artour, Luke Harriman after my showing, presented him with a hard copy of HOME: a Story of Belonging’s Presenters Pack (with all of the workshop material as well as the details of our performance: and will follow up within 24 hours.

10. ENJOY YOURSELVES!!!!! It really is a friendly crowd. Everyone is out to do a good job and Artour was so enthusiastic as they embraced this new approach to the marketplace. Because I am a newbie, I don’t know what used to happen, but I know now that with preparation, energy, enthusiasm and a sense of humour, only good can come out of this.

Congratulations Artour for a strong experience. You will be hearing from us!!!!!

Margi and the HOME TEAM