FAST happened this weekend at La Boite, where university students from Queensland hosted students from NSW and Victoria in an astonishingly vibrant theatre festival.  ‘Under the Radar’ the fringe festival that is happening right now in Brisbane  could take a page or two from the organizers of this mini festival, where there was a constant buzz of excitement as the days unfolded.   QUT’s Ben Schostakowski the artistic director and Belinda Locke, the general manager of the event, obviously spent much time ironing out the clunks because I only witnessed the zings of the program.  I managed to see 7 of the 13 shows on offer and they all had an integrity about them that was a privilege to see.  The most challenging (read risky) piece i saw was Hippolytos Raised, an astonishing offering from Sydney University Dramatic Society.  The piece was in two parts but at the festival these two parts  were played two days apart.  It was both classic and postmodern in its content and form and was a strong example of what can be done with the classics to make them absolutely relevant for today’s audiences. I will think about this production for some time because of the themes that the ensemble explored.

As far away from classical as you can get,  Debaurchery LImited, produced by QUT locals Dan Maloney and Moneth Montemayor was very silly (good silly that is), only 15 minutes and therefore thoroughly enjoyable as they played with themes of love and jealousy, I think young Sam Green is a theatre maker/actor to watch over the coming years.  He is absolutely ‘wacky’ in this piece with his long spider arms and legs.

Another show that stimulated my curiosity was Wake in Fright from Victoria.  Adapted and directed by Bob Pavlich, the play dealt with “a hellish limbo” of rural Australia.  I don’t think any punters drank beer for the rest of the evening after watching such a shameful representation of the Australian male stereotype. Victoria continued to shine with  La Trobe’s Short Works, an assortment of short plays that is apparently a tradition at La Trobe.  My favourite was the first one, a monologue by an arsonist (who was the actor?).  It was confronting theatre, especially in the light of the horrendous fires Victoria has faced over the last few years; we were invited into the mind of this young man and glimpsed at why he did what he did. This piece demonstrated the strength of theatre: one actor, with no set, no props (except a Bic lighter) can change the way audiences view such catastrophes. Thank you La Trobe.

Finally the event that could have been the jewel of the crown was the 24 hour project, where creatives from different states worked together to create four 15 minute performances.  The idea was fabulous and perhaps with a stronger presentational framework it could have been a satisfying finish to a great festival. It seemed to me that to single out the writers and directors rather than including the whole ensemble in the quick (or not so quick) interview before they performed moved away from the philosophy of ensemble, which is surely the intention of a 24 hour exercise such as this.  My faith in student theatre is that they are moving away from the traditional structure of  theatre and embracing the artistry of all concerned. This will ensure that theatre continues to live.  The strength of the 24 hour project was in its interconnectivity among the different universities and as such has created bridges that can now be grown and nourished. Nothing creates community like 24 hours in a locked room! Congratulations all of those young creatives who took the challenge.  May more do it in the future! I think it should be compulsory!

Thank you FAST. It was a great rejuvenator for me.  The energy and commitment from all of the students was a joy to be part of.  Matt, owner of the coffee shop was in great form hosting us between shows (thanks Matt!).  Here’s to the next festival!.