Faces in the Street by Errol O’Neill
Andrew Ross has the historically significant distinction of being the first La Boite Artistic Director to formally commission a new Queensland work, Errol O’Neill’s Faces in the Street, with financial assistance from Brisbane’s Warana Festival.
Described by Ruth Bell in Time Off as “political theatre at its best” and by Bruce Dickson in The National Times as “a triumph for O’Neill”[i], Faces in the Street, directed by Ross with music composed by Donald Hall, dramatised the 1912 Brisbane General Strike.
With an amateur cast of twenty-five (including Matt Foley “outstanding as strike leader”[ii]), the production was supported by a large professional back-up team. David Hinchliffe commented that “What Warren Beatty did for the Russian Revolution in Reds, local playwright Errol O’Neill has done to the Brisbane proletariat’s struggle of the same period”.[iii] Verity Masters in her review for The Australian noted how effectively the La Boite performance space had been used to recreate the strike and its aftermath, “heightened by the use of a traverse-style stage area, and the very small sets dotted imaginatively round the auditorium”.[iv]
O’Neill himself recalled that this versatility of the space was “one of the things about La Boite that gave it that magic. You could use the audience sitting there with stuff happening beside them, underneath them, behind them. When you used that to advantage it really created something very interesting”.[v]
Writer: Christine Comans