From the pen of Quandamooka man and lauded Indigenous writer/director Wesley Enoch comes 'The Sunshine Club', a captivating musical transporting audiences to post-war Brisbane.
After serving in World War II, Aboriginal soldier Frank Doyle returns home to find that the same attitudes and prejudices still exist. . . Even in a changed world.
Frank is determined to change things for the better – and in doing so, he creates The Sunshine Club: a place for people to come together, laugh, romance and dance the night away. The Sunshine Club is also the place where Frank sets out to win the heart of Rose, from next door.
Before 'The Sunshine Club' hits Redland Performing Arts Centre in Queensland, with its messages of finding golden moments – even in the face of adversity – we speak to actor Garret Lyon, who plays Frank Doyle in the show.
Talk a little bit about what ’The Sunshine Club’ is all about.
'The Sunshine Club' tells the story of a young Aboriginal soldier named Frank who has returned home to Meanjin (Brisbane) from World War II with the idea that because he fought alongside white people in the war that things back home would be different and more accepting. He realises day one that this is not the case and all of his hopes seem to be diminished, until he decides to open up his own club where people of all races and backgrounds can come together for a night of music and dancing. Along the way, he falls in love with his childhood friend, Rose, who is also the daughter of the Reverend and the story starts to focus on the hurdles they face within a mixed race relationship in the '40s. It’s a fun, thought-provoking story which features original music that covers all genres of music from that period. Not a show to be missed.
How did your involvement in the show come to be?
I auditioned for 'The Sunshine Club' in 2022 and was cast as Ensemble (Lorry Hocking, Bill Harris and Ghost of Uncle Charlie) in Queensland Theatre's season of the show which played at QPAC in Meanjin. Soon after that season I was contacted about playing those same roles for a National tour but this time I wanted to challenge myself and asked Writer/Director Wesley Enoch, if I could audition for a lead role. So I sent in a tape, I also had a few other things happening at the time so couldn’t fully commit to the show right away but the universe knew exactly what I needed to do so I accepted the role of Frank Doyle in April 2023.
Tell us a bit about Frank Doyle.
Frankie is a young, ambitious, proud and hopeful man. He has so much hope for the future of his family and his people and he just wants to make a change. He’s charismatic but also comes with his own flaws and demons which he struggles with throughout the show. He’s definitely one of the most complicated characters I’ve ever played but it’s been such a journey going on this ride and telling his story.
What’s your favourite thing about playing this character?
I think my favourite thing about playing this character is all the new things I find within him during every show. Not every show is exactly the same and I may do something slightly different by accident one night and unlock a new feeling within myself which then helps me see things from a different perspective. He’s always growing, he’s always evolving but keeping within the story. He’s also got a very emotional journey within the show so being able to tap into those feelings and emotions has been quiet the ride for myself. I have a very intense song at the end of the show and coming back from that isn’t always easy, but being able to find ways on how to do that myself has been quite therapeutic and something I’ve never done before.
You’ve done a few shows already – kicking off this year in early June. What has been the highlight so far?
The highlights for me so far have been going back into the rehearsal room with familiar and new faces doing a show that I already know but working as a new character and having a different working relationship with Wesley Enoch. Last time I did the show I didn’t feel like I got much working time with him so this time around has been such an honour and joy to work so closely with him. And of course just sharing the stage every night with the most funny, loud, loving, caring cast and crew while also being able to travel parts of Australia we are all experiencing for the first time together has been deadly! And lastly, hearing people’s reactions to the show and the story. I love hearing how art changes people in so many ways, it makes me feel like I’m doing something right.
What has been the biggest challenge about being a part of ’The Sunshine Club’?
Touring a big show like this and travelling every two days to a new town was a bit full on in the beginning but we are back on our second leg of the tour now and it has become easier. I just had to find my groove but I personally love travelling and seeing new places.
This show features some pretty relevant themes. Why do you think it’s an important piece of theatre for people to experience RIGHT now?
Wesley has written an amazing, thought-provoking show while also keeping it light and fun in certain parts. There’s literally two songs in the show which kind of reflect what’s happening with the voice right now and this show was written in the '90s but based in the '40s. So the stuff we are saying in this show is still relevant and happening today. Our last song in the show is titled 'If Not Now Then When' and that’s literally the question we are asking. If not now, then when? It’s beyond time for us to have our voices heard.
What’s one thing you hope audiences walk away thinking/feeling when they leave the show?
I want them to leave immediately reflecting on the last song and how that makes them feel but I also want them to then remember how much fun, love, laughter and pride in our culture is in the show, because that’s who we are as people. I also hope they have the songs stuck in their heads for weeks after.
'The Sunshine Club' plays Redland Performing Arts Centre (Queensland) 13 September.