Fond mem­o­ries for Graeme

Warragul & Drouin Gazette - - LOCAL LIVING -

The ori­gins of War­ragul Theatre Com­pany dates back to then West Gipp­s­land Arts Cen­tre man­ager Greg McGrath want­ing to bring com­mu­nity theatre into the venue.

“It wasn’t be­ing used much, that was part of the prob­lem,” said Graeme.

One group, which later mor­phed into the Green Shed Theatre Com­pany, had pro­duced mu­si­cals in the mid-90s be­fore a two to three­year hia­tus.

McGrath then stepped in and plans were made for “The Pirates of Pen­zance” in 1998.

Af­ter the show proved “re­mark­ably suc­cess­ful”, the group very quickly jumped into “Je­sus Christ Su­per­star” just eight months later.

With “Les Mis­er­ables” very much in flavour at the time, a com­mit­tee had to be formed to se­cure the rights in 2000 and War­ragul Theatre Com­pany was born.

“Les Mis­er­ables”, which was staged again in 2010, re­mains Graeme’s favourite show.

He also en­joyed “My Fair Lady” in 2002 which he de­scribed as “a re­ally nice show”. It was di­rected by the late Nor­man Yemm who was good at stage craft but poor in or­gan­i­sa­tion.

“Singin in the Rain” in 2003 was ground­break­ing as “we were one of the first theatre com­pa­nies to use rain”.

Whilst us­ing the sprin­kler sys­tem to cre­ate a wet stage proved vis­ually spec­tac­u­lar, it caused headaches be­hind the scenes. The wa­ter seeped un­der the cov­er­ings and im­pacted on parts of the stage.

What fol­lowed was “Oliver” in 2004, “Ok­la­homa” – “sur­pris­ingly very pop­u­lar” – in 2005 and “Any­thing Goes” in 2006.

The stag­ing of “Cats” in 2008 was a som­bre oc­ca­sion as it was the last show of direc­tor David Pick­burn be­fore his death. He had missed only one show as direc­tor – hav­ing in­stead played the lead in “My Fair Lady”.

“He knew he didn’t have long,” said Graeme. “It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a direc­tor get a stand­ing ova­tion. At the last show, he stood up and took a bow.”

He praised the com­pany for try­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent with “Car­men the Mu­si­cal” in 2012 and re­cent for­ays into straight drama pro­duc­tions.

“Phan­tom of the Opera” in 2014 was re­called “in many ways our biggest ever pro­duc­tion in terms of sets and cos­tumes”.

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