There's a colossal programme on offer at this year’s Anywhere Festival.
The festival that encourages performers to perform anywhere but a theatre returns in 2021 to mark their tenth birthday with an exciting array of comedy, circus, virtual reality, dance, music, poetry and more that can happen anywhere – churches, museums, gardens. . . There isn’t a spot in Brisbane, Noosa, Moreton Bay, Ipswich and the Sunshine Coast that shows won’t be touching.
Executing this mammoth line-up is CEO and Founder of Anywhere, Paul Osuch, who has some advice for audiences and first-time attendees: “Don’t look at the performances, look at the venues.”
Paul’s idea of taking this approach is that it will give attendees an idea of some kind of direction that will be useful when facing such a smorgasbord of artistic choice. “That’s one of the beautiful things about this festival. People go in and say, ‘I’m not really sure what I want to see but I’m really interested to see what’s at the bottom of that reservoir.’
It could be a band or an immersive experience, but whatever the venue, performances are getting creative in a plethora of obscure and non-traditional locations. The tram way, an old museum, a paint factory; for people expecting traditional performances and never having experienced, say, prose outside of a theatre, a show in a garden can be just as enticing as a traditional platform, though it will have developed new life and interest within the piece. “One of the big things, [for] anybody who still has that childlike wonder, where you want to poke your head in a place and explore where you wouldn’t normally, I think there’s a lot of that curiosity,” Paul says.
“The other thing is, we say to [the artists] the idea is to find a space that gives you the set that you want. Instead of them having to worry about building a set, making something look like an alley or a brick wall, actually put it in an alley, or heritage home.
“You can then feel, as an audience member, so much more immersed and enveloped in a show that’s happening because the set straight away places you where you need to be.”
'Avalon' - Image © Katherine Ernst
For Paul to highlight any one or a handful of performances that really transform their work within one of the roughly 100 non-traditional venues taking part in this year’s Anywhere Festival, it’s the dreaded ‘Who’s your favourite child?’ question. Hesitantly, with a chuckle, Paul mentions several artists who move fairly far away from their traditional environment. “Byte Theatre Company, they’ve done their show in a hedge maze, in a swimming pool, and this year they’re doing a show called ‘Avalon’, that will be at Mt Coolum Golf Club. They’re a company that really gets the Anywhere concept.
“You’ve got things like 'Dancing On The Jetty' in Moreton Bay – some beautiful jetties around that area – that will be a bit of a pop-up thing but really interesting.”
Remember, this event isn’t just central to the urban sprawl of Brisbane. This year marks the first time a full schedule of programming is set to take place in Moreton Bay and Ipswich. “The very first Anywhere Festival, which only had about 20 shows in it, one of them was in Ipswich,” Paul says. “We have Sunshine Coast and Noosa where we’ve been the last four years. . . This year, we now look to support a few artists elsewhere.”
Returning to that wonderful adjective, “colossal”, Paul is quick to point out that since scenestr’s initial reporting of there being 655 performances on this year’s line-up, it has expanded to 820, such is the popularity and enthusiasm from performing arts lovers and executors alike for this concept. “For example, 'The Time Travel Café' has about 40 performances alone – that’s an immersive experience where you go in and encounter characters from the past.”
'Dancing On The Jetty'
“Another immersive show for eight people taking place in a garage, is called ‘The Shelter’, and they’re doing about 20 performances. So yes, it’s 800 performances but a lot of them are still quite intimate as well.
“And that’s one of the joys of the festival as well – you’re in there with eight or ten people, and that’s all that’s meant to be there, but it gives us flexibility to play with what we don’t generally have with a normal theatre.”
Anywhere Festival has certainly expanded in some impressive ways over its ten-year history. More venues, more acts, more cities – though it does seem like Paul is a glutton for punishment. Laughing agreeably, he says, “I still feel – I won’t say I have a religious zealotry about this concept – that as an audience member, I love seeing performances that are in non-traditional spaces, that always affects me.
“The other key part of it and the reason why the programme is so huge, is that by allowing any space to be used, allowing performers to do different things they can’t do in theatres, at the core, it’s about this whole idea of storytelling.
“Stories, theatre, everything in performances shouldn’t be locked away, and we do ourselves a disservice putting ourselves in silos. The best place to be is anywhere. . . It gets it out of our arts and entertainment echo chamber and gets it out to people that will come and see things that normally they wouldn’t. That’s something that I’m passionate about, and it still drives the festival.” Anywhere Festival is on from 6-23 May at venues in Brisbane, Noosa, Moreton Bay, Ipswich and the Sunshine Coast.