Adopting the slogan La Boite – The Biggest Little Theatre in Australia, Artistic Director Jim Vilé decided not to cut back his 1988 season in the year Brisbane hosted World Expo’88 and programmed seven big mainhouse productions. These, he said “provided up to 300 opportunities for theatre workers to be involved in really top plays, making serious and stretching demands on one and all”.
La Boite finished up with the biggest program by far in Brisbane in the year of Expo, “pumping out more product than any similar sized organisation in Australia”.[i] The reason La Boite could afford to take this gamble was its pro-am status. With no actors to pay, with the majority of directors giving their services for free or a small fee and front of house and backstage run by volunteers, it could afford to take risks not available to the two professional companies, RQTC and TN!
The biggest success of Vilé’s Expo season was Hamlet, directed by Robert Arthur with musical direction by Donald Hall. After the success of his 1987 production of As You Like It, Vilé had no hesitation in programming another Shakespeare. In fact, its financial success meant Vilé could afford to pay a director’s fee to Robert Arthur, a highly regarded professional Brisbane director and actor, who attracted to his production of Hamlet “some of the most exciting established and potential talents in Brisbane”[ii] including Eugene Gilfedder, Charles Barry, Dianne Eden, Peter Lavery, Peter Knapman, Darryl Hukins, Charles Barry, Vassy Cotsiopoulos, Anna Pike and Julian St John, most of whom had worked professionally with TN! or RQTC. Both a critical and box office success, it rated 87% attendance. It would have rated at 100% if some nights had not been preserved for adults only. A big hit with schools, at least twenty school parties were turned away.
Writer: Dr Christine Comans