An ambitious strategy that Artistic Director Sean Mee and the Company pursued was international and national partnerships leading to the exchange of artistic product. In 2006 La Boite, in partnership with Brisbane Festival and England’s Derby Playhouse, produced the critically acclaimed Johnno at The Powerhouse Theatre in Brisbane. The following year this production was reprised at the Derby Playhouse, again to critical acclaim, the reviewer for the British Theatre Guide describing it as “… superb. Any superlative you can use to describe it is probably justified.”[i]
In his 2007 Annual Report, Sean Mee reflected on La Boite’s ability to create an international success.
As I enter my eighth year as Artistic Director of La Boite Theatre Company, I am amazed at the extraordinary growth and development of every aspect of the Company’s activities through that time. Of course, this journey began when the Company moved to a professional footing in 1993. But since then, it seems the imperative has always been for transformation, driven not only by the aspirations of artists for opportunity and development but also at a larger level, by the rapid advancement of the city of Brisbane and the state of Queensland. In response, the Company has developed an artistic vision that not only accommodates a constantly evolving contemporary creative landscape but also remains connected to the enduring tradition of theatre-making of this most admirable of Queensland companies. In 2007, key artistic benchmarks of the Company were achieved. For the first time, the Company had an international outcome with participation in the tour to the UK of the Brisbane Festival/Derby Playhouse/La Boite Theatre Company co-production of Johnno (adapted by Stephen Edwards from the novel by David Malouf)... The critically acclaimed Derby Playhouse season was the successful conclusion of a wonderfully adventurous partnership.
The UK reviews loudly sang its praises:
Absolutely stunning… Johnno is superb. Any superlative you can use to describe it is probably justified…Johnno is a thought-provoking, intense, moving piece… Johnno deserves a much wider audience than Brisbane and Derby, two cities which ought to count themselves lucky that they're the first to experience it. British Theatre Guide
A ground-breaking production that has potential long-term financial and creative benefits… Visually the show is a stunner… It has both cinematic beauty and theatrical eloquence… Denny and Mee, as polar opposites, are perfectly cast - the former a burning fuse of energy, the latter a sympathetic counterpoint…This mesmerising, highly physical, show may not be to all tastes but it's surely one of the most daring and dazzling shows the Playhouse has ever staged. Derby Evening Telegraph
Writer: Dr Christine Comans
[i] http://www.britishtheatreguide.info/reviews/johnno-rev.htm, cited 24 June,2009.