4 June 2023

New theatre set to play its part in Canberra's creative resurgence

| Sally Hopman
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Woman directing actors

Actor and producer Lexi Sekuless, left, rehearses with actors for the new show at the Mill Theatre. Photo: Dan Abroguena.

In what used to be the quiet part of town, you can now hear them treading the boards – from left to stage right.

Dairy Road, once a dead-end at the back of Fyshwick, is now a thriving home for artisans. From craftspeople and chocolatiers to actors.

Well-known Canberra actor, producer and most everything else theatrical, Lexi Sekuless, is leading what can only be described as a charge – bringing life and creativity to that once forgotten end of town.

Through the Mill Theatre, which she established only about six months ago, Ms Sekuless is bringing an independent brand of theatre to the people. And hopes to get the people to the theatre.

It’s a small studio space where several house productions are produced each year but also where actors, directors and writers can drop in and where a mentor program is available. The theatre can also be hired out for other events such as filming or lectures.

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It operates on an ensemble model where all interested people are invited to join – and contribute.

It’s also a place for theatrical firsts in Canberra from next month when ambassador for Australian theatre Julian Meyrick will direct Nick Enright’s award-winning Good Works.

“This is a major coup for Canberra to attract a director of Julian Meyrick’s calibre for an overdue revival of Enright’s award-winning Good Works,” Ms Sekuless said.

“Although Enright died at the relatively young age of 52 in 2002 he has left us with an incredible body of work in theatre, the musical stage and on screen. Interestingly his papers are in Canberra at the Australian Defence Force Academy.”

Mr Meyrick said he was delighted to bring the play to the national capital.

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“This will be my first opportunity to realise my vision of regularly reviving major Australian plays, and where better to make the dream a reality than in Canberra,” he said.

His recent book Australia in 50 Plays published by Currency Press last year concludes with a clarion call for Australian theatre companies not to overlook the nation’s rich theatrical heritage.

“A society cannot understand its cultural present if it does not appreciate its cultural past,” he said. “Overseas theatre companies regularly revive plays from their national repertoires. But this happens more rarely in Australia, particularly at the public-funded state theatre companies.”

Ms Sekuless said the aim with the new compamy was to bring more people to Canberra to see the rich talent and facilities the capital had to offer.

“Maybe Canberra is the place for the nation’s revival,” she said. “During COVID, everyone closed their doors. But with this venue, I’d like to see more doors open, I want to see this venue grow, like Canberra is growing.”

Ms Sekuless said she’d like to see “The Mill” develop as a place where actors and directors could drop in, where if someone had an idea for a play, they could flag it.

She said she was working with a stage manager last year who told her he’d come up with an idea for a play. “We ended up putting it on,” she said.

The play, White Rabbit, Red Rabbit, by Nassim Soleimanpour, proved to be a hit with the audience.

Woman in front of mirrors

Lexi Sekuless is keen to put the spotlight on Canberra’s theatre scene – opening it up to all to play their part. Photo: Kerrie Brewer.

“It was wonderful to see that happen,” she said.

“There are so many hurdles when it comes to mounting a show these days, I’m just interested in working with people to do it a little differently.”

Mr Meyrick said he had been a mentor and supporter of the Mill Theatre since before its inception.

“I was profoundly impressed that its first production was a successful revival of Oriel Grey’s The Torrents, an Australian play from the mid-1950s. It was an outstanding choice,” he said.

The cast for Good Works includes Neil Pigot, Helen McFarlane, Oliver Bailey, Lexi Sekuless, Adele Querol and Martin Everett. Recent NIDA graduate Kathleen Kershaw is production and costume designer, Damien Ashcroft is composer and sound designer, and Jess Morris is stage manager.

Good Works opens at the Mill Theatre on 12 July and runs until 12 August. Bookings and more information is available on the website.

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