The Forwards’ unique theatrical footy fest

The Forwards is a unique independent theatre experience about footy, friendship and reckless behaviour at The Arts Centre Gold Coast which will run between Thursday 9 and Saturday 18 July.

In the small town of Pintoon everyone loves the footy. The local team, the Pintoon Parrots, finally make it to the grand final due to the talent of their three star goal kickers, Rabbit, Hoges and Tractor. Before the big game, the entire town is partying hard and the ‘dream team’ are challenged by the vicious cocktail of grog and jealousy as mateship gives way to anger and violence. We briefly spoke with writer and director Stefo Nantsou about his inspiration for the story and the unique delivery of the play.

Where did the story come from?

In 2004 I was commissioned by Regional Arts Victoria to write a new play ‘relevant’ for a regional audience. I did drama and writing workshops in a few regional schools and out of these workshops came stories and ideas which became the script for The Forwards. For over 30 years I’ve been doing drama workshops with high school students, staying in towns for days, talking to workers, and I hear a lot of stories. So many of the stories included in the play are fictionalised events which I have pasted together into one fictional story, which is made up and inspired by real events I read about or was told first hand. All the characters are fictional but hopefully recognisable types which any audience can relate to.

What makes this production different from the standard live theatre experience?

The Zeal Theatre style is very different, it’s live music, it’s multi-skilled actors playing a multitude of characters, it’s fast and physical, it’s dangerous and edgy, it’s very funny and extremely powerful, it’s an Australian story told by an Australian cast in the Australian vernacular about current Australian issues and themes which are of concern to the majority of Australians. And it has the energy of a football game. It is staged as if on a football oval and will sweep the audience from pub to party to garage to paddock to the inside of a speeding car through the back alleys of a small country town. I haven’t seen a play like this before.

Tell us a bit about the lead roles and the actors who play them.

The play centres around a love story between local girl Julie Carter and her boyfriend Gary Rabbit who wins the Best and Fairest Player of the Pintoon Parrots on the eve of their Grand Final against arch-rivals. Brisbane actress Ellen Bailey plays both boyfriend and girlfriend. She will take your breath away. The other ‘Forwards’ in the team, Hoges and Tractor are played by Gold Coast’s own Sam Foster and Hayden Jones (recently seen in “The Apology” at Boggo Road Gaol as part of the Brisbane Anywhere Festival). These guys are awesome actors who play about 20 characters each and have the energy of a neutron bomb together on stage. Joining the cast to play a number of guest roles will be Zeal Theatre co-founders myself and Rob Dilley.

Is there a message or a moral to the story? Did you set out to create a talking piece?

It raises a number of issues about our culture, our ways of interacting, how destructive we can be, how loving we can be. Theatre works on a lot of levels, there is never just one message or meaning, there is the experience itself followed by the things that stick in your mind afterwards. Hopefully everyone has a good laugh, are enthralled by the story, find their emotions activated, shed a bit of a tear, and have plenty to think about.

Tickets to the six performances of The Forwards can be purchased at theartscentregc.com.au.

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