Breaking the Castle to make Queensland premiere at QPAC

Peter-Cook-stars-in-Breaking-the-CastleQueensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) in association with Oombarra Productions is pleased to announce the Queensland premiere of Peter Cook’s compelling and uplifting one-man play, Breaking the Castle, in the Cremorne Theatre from 24 February 2023.

This stirring production will be directed by proud Goa-Gunggari-Wakka Wakka Murri woman from Queensland, Leah Purcell AM, one of Australia’s leading actors, writers, and directors with award-winning roles across all mediums.

Leah is the winner of the 2022 AACTA Award for Best Lead Actress in Film, and the 2022 Australian Directors’ Guild Award for Best Direction in a Debut Feature Film, both for The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson.

Breaking the Castle is the story of David, a struggling actor living a knife’s edge existence, battling debilitating mental health, and descending into drug and alcohol abuse. Suddenly, he is thrown an unlikely lifeline and offered a chance at redemption in a rehabilitation centre in Thailand.

Written and performed by Brisbane’s Peter Cook, the play is inspired by true events, and is making its homecoming after three critically acclaimed interstate seasons.

“I’m nervous about telling my story in my hometown, but I know it’s an important tale,” said Cook. “There are many men my age I know in Brisbane suffering in silence, and I hope Breaking the Castle will inspire them to seek help.”

Breaking the Castle also offers an insight into what it’s like to be an actor: auditioning for gigs, facing constant rejection, and trying to stay afloat while chasing dreams and pursuing passions. The show is told using humour at every corner, particularly to share the hilarious humiliations at the hands of casting directors.

QPAC audiences will be presented with a completely new version of the show, with Purcell providing a fresh artistic vision for the story’s telling. This will include new sound, stage, and lighting design by local creatives.

Cook said the cathartic process of creating this play allowed him to focus on providing a voice to those struggling.

“One of the driving forces behind writing the play was seeing that the only difference between the people at the five-star rehab in Thailand and the people I was using with on the streets of Kings Cross was access to rehabilitation.  Their trauma was the same,” he said.

“This play humanises the people who have fallen through the cracks. It is easy to judge people we see on the street and throw around terms like “junkie,” but we do not know their story, how their life has unfolded, or what mental health struggles or traumas they have.”

“If it can happen to Dave, who ostensibly is an everyman who has had a privileged life, it can happen to anyone,” said Cook.

Director Leah Purcell said this play is the perfect directorial project for her as it touches on several key artistic points she looks for in a work.

“As a director, I look for what the show has to offer its audience – its message. I look for great writing. I want the work to challenge me creatively and be excited by the actor’s potential, passion, and connection to the piece. Breaking the Castle has all of this,” she said.

Purcell also believes that this tale has provided her with a new insight into those struggling with addiction. “This play is someone’s personal experience which gives a deeper level of understanding and it’s the personal part that makes it universal,” said Purcell.

“Mental health can affect anyone; it does not discriminate. This is the master stroke in this piece of theatre; its perspective – it is talking to our middle to upper class about their hidden addiction,” she said.

Cook adds, “addiction cuts through race, class, and gender; it affects us all. What I want our audience to take away from this powerhouse performance is its thought-provoking insight, to experience the emotional journey, and enjoy the moments of laughter throughout the play,” he said.

Cook added that while the subject matter of Breaking the Castle tackles serious issues, it is also an authentic tale of perseverance and courage.

“We all need human connection to feel loved, supported, heard, acknowledged, understood and most importantly, worthy. We all want to feel part of a tribe, even if that is not our family of origin,” he said.

“But first and foremost, we must feel connected to who we really are, and that is part of Dave’s journey – finding out who he is. Breaking the Castle is a roadmap to hope for people who are wanting to find their way out of a dark place,” said Cook.

Purcell is also looking forward to sharing a remarkable story and a wonderful night in the theatre. “It’s a cleverly crafted piece of entertaining theatre that can give insight, understanding and a lifeline, all wrapped up in the drama, laughs, and a good night at the theatre,” she said.

Breaking the Castle was developed in Canberra at The Street Theatre, the producers of the world premiere, and debuted in 2020. Appearances followed at The Hothouse Theatre in Albury Wodonga in 2021, and Riverside Theatres Parramatta in 2022.

“This one-man production may be the most significant theatre production that audiences are ever likely to experience.” – City Hub Sydney

Breaking the Castle
Cremorne Theatre – QPAC, Cultural Precinct, South Bank (Brisbane)
Season: 24 February – 4 March 2023
Information and Bookings:

Image: Peter Cook stars in Breaking the Castle by The Street Theatre performed at Hothouse Theatre 2021mage supplied by Pixel Frame – Videography by Alison Plasto.