29 September 2023

Canberra Youth Theatre presents 'Rosieville': One girl's journey through a pigeon's psychological bootcamp

| James Day
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Imogen Bigsby and Claire Imlach in costume as Rosie and the pigeon, respectively.

Stars of the production are Rosie, played by Imogen Bigsby (left), and the pigeon, played by Claire Imlach (right) Photo: Canberra Youth Theatre.

A young girl and her homing pigeon best friend will be frolicking about the Canberra Theatre Centre from 29 September to 8 October, performing a story about putting a broken heart back together again and the long-lost Birdman rally.

It will be the world premiere of Rosieville, a play written by born and bred local Mary Rachel Brown. Commissioned during the pandemic by her alma mater, the Canberra Youth Theatre (CYT), its script has already taken the runner-up position for the Shane & Cathryn Brennan Prize for playwriting.

Since those early days in the CYT classroom, Mary has reached the heights of the Australian theatre scene as a member of the National Playwriting Awards honour roll.

Now she’s bringing home a tale about the trials of one’s first heartbreak. And how a Canberra girl named Rosie finds her strength with the help of a “mouthy homing pigeon that claims to be her subconscious” that invades her dreams at night.

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“This play is about the habits people develop when they’re waiting for something,” Mary said. “The anxieties and how they manifest, along with what happens when they do or don’t get what they want.”

“We’ve been very fortunate that our young actors have been able to partner up with adult actors. They have really brought life to the play, and some much-needed assistance for us young actors,” Claire Imlach, the young CYT actor playing the supportive moral compass characters of pigeon and hairdresser said.

Portrait shot of Mary Rachel Brown. She has black curly hair, blue eyes, and pearl earrings.

Mary Rachel Brown began her career in the arts with the Canberra Youth Theatre as a “crazy gothic youth”. Since then, she has won multiple awards and earned her place on the honour roll of the National Playwriting Awards. Photo: Canberra Youth Theatre.

The production has also introduced the younger generation to the Birdman rally, an event that saw Canberrans compete for distance in taking their homemade contraptions off a tall platform and into the waters of Lake Burley Griffin.

While Claire thinks the rally should certainly make a return, Mary says the insurance costs alone would make it “inconceivable” today.

However, Mary still believes the great amount of freedom she had as a girl growing up in the capital is still prevalent today and something she hopes to have captured in the play.

Over the past three years of working on the play with the CYT, Mary has seen how much the company has changed from her time there.

“It’s got quite a solid reputation now, when I was there it was still developing and in a fledgling state.

“CYT is really fast becoming a powerhouse in the Australian theatre scene, especially in commissioning work for young people. It’s really exciting because a lot of plays only have a cast of four, as that’s what most companies can afford.

In Mary’s opinion, much of the credit should go to CEO and artistic director Luke Rogers.

“Luke has invested heavily in making sure that young people have a hand in contributing to the work so their voices are central,” she said.

“There’s a lot of opportunities to showcase the youth’s talent, and more focus on nurturing people that have other skills in the technical areas.”

Mary says there’s something for everyone in this play. Something eccentric, strange, and funny for the young, but nostalgic and heart-warming for the old.

You can find more information and tickets to Rosieville on the Canberra Youth Theatre website.

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