Setting the Pace - Anywhere Festival Preview Night 2019

HalfHitch Innovates the Formula with a Fantastic Kick-off for the 2019 Program

Consistency is at the core of Anywhere Festival in 2019, as the company introduces its ninth year with their very first Preview Night. If creating a viable and sustainable platform for independent creators has always been the goal, then this year’s efforts seem to follow the trend. A cross section of the festival is precisely what Anywhere needs.

The Festival’s co-founder and CEO, Paul Osuch, has been a guiding force since its inception, though it’s clear that his focus has never been in the spotlight. Instead, the NIDA Playwrights alumni spends much of the night sharing his enthusiasm with other attendees, and encouraging creatives in the ethos that guides the festival.

“I don’t believe in this idea that the festival has to have a new thing each year,” he says. “Everybody will say ‘Oh, what’s the theme?’ Well, it’s performance, anywhere but a theatre. That’s it.” Osuch quotes from the festival’s long-standing ethos, and his commitment to the core tenants of Anywhere ground the festival as a reliable platform, first and foremost.

Osuch’s avoidance of unnecessary shake ups of the formula is unique in Brisbane circles, where escalation and one-upmanship seems to be the norm. However, a night like this is perhaps the best example of the kind of growth and development that happens within successful and thriving festivals. And it comes from the community’s need to fill the gaps.

HalfHitch, a collaboration between fringe artists Regan Henry and Kelsey Laura, are the masterminds behind the Preview Night. “Sometimes it can be tricky to know exactly what a show is all about just from the program, or just from the advertising,” says Laura. “So actually being able to see a snippet of the show, I think is very valuable. It also allows actors, and performers of all kinds actually, to be able to bring their actual craft in front of people.

The experience they bring from their own explorations of multidisciplinary art defines the Preview Night, and therefore, define the Festival as a whole. Through them, Anywhere has discovered a love for the outrageous and the endearing. A renaissance of the ridiculous. Henry and Laura revel in the gaps between, leading the audience in new renditions of vintage classics to hide scene changes, and self-aware, self-deprecating humour pokes fun at a defective microphone and their own awkwardness.

“We’re trying to bring emerging performance art to Brisbane. We know how to do that quite well, seems like it should be a pretty good task to cross apply to something like Anywhere’s Preview Night.”

All of this complements the performances themselves, as the selection of the Festival’s productions ‘show off’ for some last minute publicity. It is a shining, if rough, example of the variety show style of presentation that begins today. However, there is a certain irony to be found in the festival of non-traditional spaces subjecting a selection of their performers to a transplanting into the restaurant space of Spring Hill’s Metropolitan, and while it’s hard to say if the presenters suffered for it, there continues to be room for exploring precisely what the best avenue is to attract the attention of new audiences

Osuch is committed to letting demand drive the festival’s focus. “Every year there’s different pockets that keep on getting explored, and different themes, genres, shows and contents, and it’s all fed by what people are interested in doing. It ends up curating itself.” The program becomes a reflection of its collaborators, and each year seems to be a more authentic representation of the kind of theatre that the creators demand to be made. Given the sheer influence an open and engaging community can have over it, it will be interesting to see whether this year’s selection succeeds in curating theatre that is necessary for the creatives, as well as engaging the wider public.

Nothing has been so influential on the arts as the platform on which to find an audience. Everyone is an artist. Anyone can create. It only makes sense that these performances can come from anywhere, and must exist everywhere. The more support shown to growing platforms, the more we see the walls break down, the lines between the sectors grow thinner. The Preview Night was a notable step forward for the Anywhere Festival, and HalfHitch should be very proud of contributing to the future of the festival, and the future of the arts in Southeast Queensland.