Small towns have big scope for creativity – NORPA to present two original works in 2015

grant macintyre photographyLismore based theatre company NORPA (Northern Rivers Performing Arts) continues to prove that creativity and innovation is alive and well in regional Australia with the announcement that it will be presenting two original works in its season this year.

NORPA will be putting its 2012 sell-out show Railway Wonderland back on the tracks at Lismore train station for a 3 week run and is also presenting a high energy physical theatre work Cockfight by Brisbane based company The Farm co-produced with NORPA and Performing Lines.

The two original works will feature alongside nationally significant touring companies including Bangarra Dance Theatre, Circa, Bell Shakespeare and Queensland Theatre Company. NORPA Artistic Director Julian Louis describes this year’s program as one of the most exciting in NORPA’s 20-year history.

“Some of the most powerful and joyous responses we get are to our homegrown works. NORPA is one of the few remaining regional theatre companies in Australia producing original work and audiences are hungry for them,” said NORPA’s Artistic Director Julian Louis

“The perception that regional audiences just want sure-fire dramas from the cities is far from the truth for the Northern Rivers. Over 20 years NORPA has cultivated a sophisticated and adventurous audience. We continue to create and produce works that push the boundaries of theatre.”

“I like to think NORPA is an important voice in contemporary Australian theatre and contributes significantly to the creation of new Australian work.”

Railway Wonderland is one of the largest and most dynamic theatre works to be created in the Northern Rivers region. Performed on the platform of Lismore’s train station with the audience in specially constructed undercover seating over the (no longer in use!) railway tracks, Railway Wonderland combines dance, theatre, live music, a choir and video projections to take the audience on a magical ride across time from the 1940s to the present day.

Railway Wonderland follows the story of four strangers who are waiting for a bus as the trains don’t run any more. They each have their own reasons for leaving – love, fame, to run away, or to go home one more time… The distant sound of a train whistle announces the arrival of a mysterious old woman who has come to catch the train. Is she an apparition, an angel, or mad – or all three? The strangers are swept up into the old woman’s tale of arrival as a young immigrant in a strange land and her search for belonging in a country town.

Railway Wonderland continues NORPA’s strong tradition of creating adventurous and entertaining works that take people out of the theatre and into the heart of our cities and towns. When it premiered in 2012 it sold out two weeks before it opened. We have had ongoing requests for its return,” said Julian Louis.

Railway Wonderland is not just a theatre show, it’s an event, an experience that people will enjoy whether they are regular theatre-goers or not. We hope people will travel to come and see it. Like the tracks that used to link our cities and towns, the stories we tell in Railway Wonderland run a line through the history of the Northern Rivers and many rural communities in Australia. While the show is not a political statement, it is a great use of an iconic heritage site that resonates deeply with a lot of people.”

Railway Wonderland will run for three weeks from 22 October to 7 November at Lismore Train Station.

Cockfight, a NORPA co- production with The Farm and Performing Lines is a comical, combative and ultimately tender performance that explores masculinity and pushes the limits of physical theatre.

“It’s like an episode of The Office meets a cage-fight, Australian style,” says Julian Louis. “At the heart of Cockfight is a very real relationship between performers Josh Thompson and Gavin Webber who have been working together for many years as well as with leading dance companies nationally and internationally. Their humour, trust and understanding allows them to take extreme physical risks”.

Cockfight will premiere for three nights from 17 Sept to 19 Sept at Lismore City Hall.

NORPA works in development in 2015
Throughout 2015 NORPA will continue to develop two new works, Dreamer and Three Brothers. Dreamer draws inspiration from the Northern Rivers’ melting pot of visionaries, inventors and activists and begins a creative relationship with dance company Force Majeure.

Three Brothers is a new contemporary Indigenous work inspired by a Bundjalung creation story and local historical events. The creative team includes Julian Louis, Rhoda Roberts, choreographer Frances Rings, author Melissa Lucashenko, artist Djon Mundine, actors Kirk Page, Billy McPherson, Thomas E.S. Kelly, Bundjalung elders and Bundjalung community members.

“NORPA has big visions and big dreams for Australian theatre making. To realise these projects we have partnerships across all levels from community groups to local businesses, to funding bodies such as Arts NSW and Regional Arts NSW.”

“A key community partner is Lismore City Council with whom we help to define and celebrate Lismore as a cultural city in regional Australia. These partnerships are crucial to NORPA being able to create new work and give regional audiences access to the best performing arts in Australia.”

For more information about NORPA and to buy tickets and subscription packages, visit for details.

Image: Railway Wonderland – photo by Grant MacIntyre