BMEC | Hearing the echo of young voices through history

BRANCHING OUT: The title of original play The Climbing Tree is a reference to the Kings Parade haven enjoyed by generations of young Bathurstians.
BRANCHING OUT: The title of original play The Climbing Tree is a reference to the Kings Parade haven enjoyed by generations of young Bathurstians.

“Four teenagers are being interrogated. Their voices drawn from two hundred years of history in one country town.”

The Climbing Tree is an original play being developed by BMEC in partnership with national Sydney-based company Australian Theatre for Young People (ATYP). Part play, part ghost story and part musical, it celebrates a town with an extraordinary history as seen through the eyes of those who will shape its future.

It follows the story of four everyday teenagers: Rayleen is looking forward to escaping reality with her 17th birthday party; Kylie is debating running for school captain; Scott is finding his feet in a new town while balancing family and culture; and Will is working out love and what Wahluu means.

To premiere as part of the Artstate 2018 Regional Festival and Conference in November, the work follows the recurring narratives of being a young person in Bathurst throughout recent history. It will then tour to Parramatta’s Riverside Theatres.

The play has been developed over three years through a close collaboration between BMEC and ATYP.

Playwright Rachael Coopes and composer Guy Webster, part of the team behind ATYP’s award-winning Sugarland, have visited and learnt about Bathurst over this time through workshops, residencies and research.

While Rachael and Guy lent industry experience and theatre training to local young people through workshops, they gained insight into the reality of “teenagedom” in Bathurst.

Participants of the workshop program also created their own work, presented at BMEC and in Sydney in 2017, 17 Things the Government Doesn’t Want You To Know About the Internet.

Beyond this there has also been deep conversation with Bathurst Wiradyuri and Aboriginal community elders, Young Mob, high schools, Skillset, Bathurst Police, Headspace staff, and historians.

Local audiences of all ages will recognise references to history but also contemporary tales and characters. The namesake of the play is the well-loved and well-climbed tree in Kings Parade.

And although the work takes a lens to some of the harshest perceptions that continue to split our community, it hopes to bridge some of those ‘us’ vs ‘them’ moments. Whether it’s debating whether Bridle Track or Sofala Gold is the best Annie’s flavour or busting classist stereotypes about life over the river.

Auditions for The Climbing Tree will be held on Monday, July 23 at Bathurst Memorial Entertainment Centre.

In particular, the producers are looking for performers from the Bathurst region and Aboriginal actors.

Contact BMEC with inquiries about auditions or email kylie.shead@bathurst.nsw.gov.au and, of course, come to see the result of all this work when the play premieres at BMEC from November 2-6.

Tickets to see The Climbing Tree are now online at www.bmec.com.au or you can contact BMEC on 6333 6161 to discuss membership and ticketing options for the whole season.

Heidi Annand is assistant producer at BMEC.