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NORPA’s Dreamer: Creating theatre without a playwright

One of the early sessions on the first day of the Byron Bay Writers Festival 2015 dealt with the question: how do we make theatre without a playwright.

NORPA’s artistic director Julian Louis and his cast have devised a collaborative script about “dreamers” on the Northern Rivers, one that we can all relate to perhaps.

One of the roles of NORPA, as the Northern Rivers leading performing arts company is to develop new works, often with a local theme. This is what they have done with Dreamers, created as part of its developmental program Generator, for staging in 2016.

Taking themes from Dostoevsky’s novel, The Idiot, the story is very relevant and contemporary; storytelling without words is one of Louis’ main drawcards, the idea that “we are all dreamers”.

Through mime, dance and movement Dreamer transports the audience into a dreamlike state.

Louis and his cast teased the audience with a live reading of the first act of the locally set play.

NORPA's Julian Louis and the cast of Dreamer

NORPA’s Julian Louis and the cast of Dreamer

We meet Leon, a true dreamer who has landed for a bit of humbugging on his brother Eddy’s doorstep at Bentley. Meanwhile, the community push against a CSG mine that Eddy has allowed on to his dairy farm is heating up.

“I’m having a test drill done here next week… the whole town has cut me off,” Eddy cries.

As becomes apparent, Dreamers is anchored in actual Northern River events and characters. Leon’s joy for life and dance is inspired by Tommy Franklin, a local comic.

Louis has created an abstract character in Leon, not bound by societal norms and his need to “break out”.

And there are also hints of Byron Bay spirituality in Katia, who practices her sound healings in the studio out the back of the farm just as a coal seam gas company starts knocking on her friend Esther’s gate.

“You are experiencing a healing crisis, so surrender,” Katia tells Esther.

Louis said the script was a collaborative process and it has been “built in units”, workshopped, filmed then rewritten by all of the actors involved, and is an innovative and fresh approach to playwriting.

He is excited about this approach to writing the script as it “keeps it raw”.

“You don’t know what’s going to happen next,” Louis said.

NORPA’s Dreamer is opening 2016.

Emily Pierce is a Bachelor of Arts student at SCU, majoring in Creative Writing. Interested in playwriting, theatre, screen writing 

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