Townsville actor Andrew RJ Warren has taken on his first professional role, starring in a brand new play premiering in Cairns this weekend.
Queenslander, written by Sue Chamberlain and presented by JUTE Theatre, is a family drama that unfolds beneath the shadow of a newly elected government that promises stability but delivers tyranny.
Andrew said the play explores how the bonds of family and kinship can be tested under the pressures of the outside world.
“The writer, Sue Chamberlain, has done a great job of capturing how individuals can be influenced by our own biases and echo chambers – especially online – and how those things start to really divide us in a family unit,” said Andrew.
“The play acknowledges that there are times when governments need to put restrictions on people and asks ‘When do those structures start to go further than they need to?’ and ‘How do they take advantage of people’s fears?’”
Andrew was asked to audition for the role of Lenny Diamond while attending a writing workshop through JUTE.
“It is really exciting getting to be part of something that is so new,” he said.
“I think a lot of actors want to be part of something original and to bring to life something that hasn’t been brought to life before. For me, that’s a really big honour.”
Queenslander has also presented Andrew with plenty of opportunity to hone his craft. He’s been thrown into the world of full-time rehearsals and challenged to learn Muay Thai fight choreography and how to rap for the role.
“I’ve been living in Cairns for the last three or four weeks and as soon as we got here it was 9-to-5 every day of rehearsals. It’s very different to what I’m used to: in community theatre rehearsals are usually over two or three months of scattered afternoons and weekends, but this is a 38-hours-a-week rehearsal period,” said Andrew.
“It’s a very quick turn-around, so I was really kicked into gear and had to learn how to do things quickly.
“I’ve been looking to real life inspirations to build the character … looking up the sort of underground rappers in Australia and observing how those people talk and walk and what life is like for activist rappers and why they do what they do.”
“I’m really amazed to be a part of this, Andrew said.
“It’s really cool to see a professional theatre company doing original works that are about where we’re living. Quite often in community theatre, you don’t get the opportunity to do original work because it won’t draw an audience or there isn’t any funding, so you end up doing your classics or reinterpretations of play, which is so much fun, but having an opportunity to bring to life a work that is so about where we are, that’s been the best thing.
“having an opportunity to bring to life a work that is so about where we are, that’s been the best thing.”
“It’s an incredible team of people and seeing it all fit together in such a small amount of time too is pretty nuts. I really want to thank the people who’ve been so supportive of me while I’ve been doing this.”
Townsville’s Madonna Davies also stars in Queenslander and the show’s lyrics for the raps in Queenslander were crafted by fellow Townsvillian and award-winning rapper Buttah the Verbal Wordsmith.
JUTE Theatre’s production of Queenslander runs 11-19 March 2022 at Bulmba-Ja Arts Centre, Cairns