Paddy Farrelly

Curtain rises for new Brisbane Irish theatre group

An Irish-led Queensland theatre company is launching with a production of Mike Bartlett’s provocative play Cock this month.

Bosco Productions has been established by Derek Draper from Dublin and Paddy Farrelly from Meath and will aim to bring Irish plays to the Queensland stage.

Paddy Farrelly has years of experience onstage in Brisbane and in 2016 produced Sean O’Casey’s The Shadow of a Gunman, which formed part of the global centenary commemortaion of the 1916 Rising.

“We decided we would set up Bosco, do this play to start off with and then we’re going to focus on a few Irish plays,” Farrelly said.

“We nail this, play as we will, [and] that opens up a whole new audience for everything else we want to do. If we started with an Irish play it’s not going to have much of a draw outside of the Irish-Australian community. You’re a one-trick pony. Doing it this way, you got chops.”

Cock’s main character John has always identified as a gay man. However, when John and his boyfriend take a break, he starts a relationship with a female that surprises even himself. The play by young English playwright Bartlett builds to a showdown where both lovers and genders fight for John. It is described as a sharply observed and witty play exploring complex issues like bisexuality and identity. Rising star Julian Curtis will play the lead role.

Bosco co-founders Paddy Farelly from Meath and Derek Draper from Dublin.

Bosco co-founders Paddy Farelly from Meath and Derek Draper from Dublin.

Bosco’s co-founder Derek Draper has starred in an acclaimed run of David Mamet’s American Buffalo and been nominated for the Billie Brown Award for Best Emerging Artist for his work in Martin McDonagh’s The Lonesome West.

Draper explains it is a play that Australia has yet to see in the way it should be done.

“It’s a comedy about the indecisions in life. It’s about trying to fit in. It’s about being in a relationship too long or not having the courage to leave it. It’s about leaving and not having the courage to go back. It’s about choice, people will really have fun with this play. It’s very unique.

“It hasn’t been done the way it needs to be done in Australia. What I wanted to do was take this play and give it the platform it hasn’t got in Australia yet,” he said.

Cock will be directed by Helen Howard who has won four Matilda Awards for her work as both an actress and a director.

“A ship is nothing without its captain. Helen is an absolute legend of the theatre and screeen here in Brisbane,” Draper said.

“Helen Howard doing this with us would be like Brendan Gleeson or Liam Cunningham landing down at a local drama group in Ireland saying, ‘Lads I’ll give you a dig out’.

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“It’s on that level,” Farrelly added. We nail this play with the level of difficulty that it has, with the level of interest that people will have to see how we deliver it, we nail this and we absolutely have a platform to bring all the really good Irish stuff in here.”

“Getting people together to celebrate anything Irish. I think is such a wonderful thing,” Draper added. “Nobody’s doing it and I don’t know why. If there isn’t an appetite for the great writers and the fantastic black humour that we have then I think it’s kind of up to us to introduce it.

“What we really need to do is get people excited about culture again and that’s going to be a mammoth task that is going to be well beyond mine and Paddy’s capabilities. But maybe we can inspire two other people who are thinking about it and maybe in Western Australia or Sydney. If anyone’s reading this article, get in touch.

“If you’re a director or a producer or you’re a showrunner or you’ve got an idea or you’re just passionate about Irish culture, let’s connect. Trust me, we’re the same. I don’t know you either and I’d love to.”

The company is already looking at productions in Sydney, Melbourne, Cairns and elsewhere.

Why is the company named after the children’s TV character? “Bosco is the underpinning thing from our childhood,” Draper says.

“It’s a homage to childhood and that is where we’re going to get all of our creativity.”

Cock will be staged at the Metro Arts Centre in Brisbane from August 21 to 31.