CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT V.C. by Jack Hibberd
An Australian Council for the Arts grant of $900 brought Lindsay Smith from the Australian Performing Group (APG) to Brisbane to direct Jack Hibberd’s Captain Midnight V.C for La Boite.
It turned out to be the most controversial production in the 1974 season. Directed by guest director Lindsay Smith, Blocksidge described it as “a production that provoked violently opposed comment – ‘shocking waste of good talent’ was one, and ‘the most exciting theatre in years’ was another”.[ii] Theatre critic David Rowbotham from The Courier-Mail did not like it. Under a headline reading “Play’s Virtue – It’s Short”, he wrote “the kid-actors who pour their energies into political pudding plays like this one, simply have no experience of the complexities they are tackling”.[iii] On the other hand, Bruce Campbell of the Nation Review commented: “Lindsay Smith has done a remarkable job fashioning a rough amateur cast into a sparkling, rough ensemble … It is provocative and stimulating”.[iv] Whilst it did well at the box office, Blocksidge was more interested in the new aesthetic that Lindsay Smith brought to the theatre:
Two things about the production stood out for me. The first was the use made of the shape and the spaces of the theatre; the second was Lindsay’s idea of Open Rehearsals where the audience became involved in discussion with the actors. As you are all probably aware – closer audience/actor contact is a particular aim of mine, and I was delighted with Lindsay’s idea. I noticed also while overseas recently, that at many theatres discussions with audiences are part of the regular program.[v]
It was her embracing of innovation and experimentation that contributed to La Boite’s growing reputation as the place to go for the most exciting and risky theatre in Brisbane.
Writer: Dr Christine Comans
Note: Distinguished literary figure David Rowbotham is best known for his impressive contribution to Australian poetry. He was The Courier-Mail's literary and theatre critic between1955 and 1964. In 1970 he was appointed its inaugural arts and literary editor and in 1980 its literary editor and chief theatre critic. He retired from journalism in 1987. Known for his sharply worded theatre reviews, his many articles on the arts and literature stimulated interest and growth in the arts sector in Queensland.