SINCE IT FIRST OPENED ITS DOORS, RIVERSIDE THEATRES HAS BEEN A VENUE FOR HIRE AS WELL AS A PRESENTER OF PROFESSIONAL PERFORMING ARTS PROGRAMMING. MEET THREE OF OUR HIRERS.
The diversity of Riverside’s program is its strength, making it the centrepiece of performing arts culture in Parramatta and Western Sydney. Built as a gift to people of the region in 1988, it has always been an important place for gathering and connecting communities through culture and the arts.
Every week is different from the last at Riverside. With well over 1000 events and almost 200,000 people through the doors annually, the foyer can be a sea of saris or suits one day, a gossipy gaggle of school children or seniors the next, dance school parents, literary lovers or film festival fans. The foyer is always buzzing with a cross section of people from the local area and beyond attending an exciting event often produced by hirers of the venue.
Meet three of Riverside’s regular hirers who influence the diversity of our program: Lingalayam Dance Company, Cumberland Gang Show and Sport for Jove Theatre Company. All three will present shows in one of our three theatres this winter.
LINGALAYAM DANCE COMPANY
An Australian arts organisation based at The Elephant House in Homebush, Lingalayam nurtures the appreciation and knowledge of Indian culture including dance, live music and text. Using the ancient dance forms of Bharatha Natyam and Kuchipudi, the company is directed by legendary guru – dancer, choreographer and teacher – Anandavalli.
A child prodigy who was said to have “been born with bells on her feet”. Valli (as her friends call her) had her Arangetram (debut public performance for Indian dance) at just nine years of age and was touring Europe three years later. She moved to Australia in 1984, and has continued to work internationally both as a solo performer and collaborating with other artists, creating work locally and overseas.
A career spanning five decades, Valli has inspired a new generation of dancers as a teacher. In 2002, she was awarded a Fellowship by the Dance Board of the Australia Council for the Arts which allowed her to further study her chosen dance forms, as well as research the ancient scripts of South India.
“When I was invited to view the newly opened Riverside Theatres in Parramatta,” says Valli, “Parramatta was still considered ‘outer west’ and not really an inviting placement for an exceptionally well equipped theatre complex. My first instinct was that Riverside would be the perfect base/venue from which to grow Lingalayam. 30 years down the track, my initial instincts have proved spot-on!”
“I also realised,” she continues, “that given the South Asian migrant population around Western Sydney, this venue and its location would be the ideal enticement to draw out the migrant population and build a home grown audience for both Lingalayam and Riverside.”
“For me and the Lingalayam Dancers, Riverside is simply ‘home’. Performing here has always been a secure haven for Lingalayam. From the production team, (I have known Sean Clarke since he was a teenager running around backstage at Riverside!) to front-of-house, box office and administration, they have all gone that extra mile for Lingalayam and that ‘crazy woman!’ They have accommodated my idiosyncrasies, firmly stood by us when things have gone seriously wrong and always made sure that no matter what, we delivered a spectacular show every single time!”
“Today the Lingalayam Dance Company is an established professional entity, one of its kind in Australia, collaborating with renowned artists and performing internationally; and every one of its Dancers started their dancing journey on the Riverside Theatres stage.“
Valli concludes “To Robert Love especially and his predecessors, I/Lingalayam owe a great big thank you.”
Although now retired from performing herself, Anandavalli continues to choreograph and direct work for Lingalayam including the upcoming production Sanchari, an innovative collection of short works which you can see on Saturday 16 June at 7pm in our Lennox Theatre.
CUMBERLAND GANG SHOW
The Cumberland Gang Show has performed at Riverside almost every year of its 30-year history. It has seen generations of family members involved in Scouting participate in the creation of an annual musical comedy family theatre show for public performance. Thousands of hours of preparation go into making the two-hour spectacle through careful planning, set and costume making, and rehearsals.
With a strong emphasis on teamwork and no stars as such, over 150 locals get involved each year in this Scouting movement tradition that dates back to 1932 in London. Created originally by Broadway and West End theatre choreographer and producer, Ralph Reader, Gang Shows are now performed all over the world.
The Cumberland Gang Show was first performed in 1969 in Ryde, moving to Marsden High School a few years later when The Guides movement also got involved and then in 1988 to Riverside Theatres. It continues to be a positive learning experience for the young people involved.
“Riverside is at the heart of our demographic which is Parramatta centred. It’s not just our home, it’s been a major player in our success as we grew in audience numbers,” says Karina Wardle, part of the team who put together Gang Show each year.
“It has allowed us to grow theatrically as well,” she continues, “flying in major sets and backdrops, using state of the art lighting and sound equipment, expanding our orchestra, and generally improving the theatrical quality of the show as we delivered an outstanding training opportunity to young people in the performing arts. In the process we have entertained 175,000 people over the past 30 years, with 4257 cast. We look forward to continuing our record-breaking run at Riverside into the future.”
Performing each July school holidays, Gang Show has become an important part of the calendar of hirer presentations at Riverside, as has the 40 or so dance and performing arts school concerts in November and December.
Cumberland Gang Show 2018 is called Feel the Beat and you won’t want to miss it from July 13 – 21 in our Riverside Theatre.
SPORT FOR JOVE THEATRE COMPANY
When Sport for Jove Theatre Company burst onto the Sydney theatre scene just under 10 years ago, they immediately made an impact. An independent company based in Western Sydney, headed by Artistic Director Damien Ryan with a genuine passion for Shakespeare. Things began small but quickly grew into a thriving theatrical force.
“Sport For Jove started as an outdoor theatre company in 2009 performing in a rose garden in Baulkham Hills,” says Steven Tait, Business Manager, “So our ties to this area as the foundation of the company are quite strong. As the company grew and began performing indoor productions, we had so many supporters in the Western Sydney area already, that we needed an indoor venue there that allowed us to meet that demand for our work. Riverside was a natural fit, providing a wonderful attractive theatrical space that allowed us the opportunity to keep a strong connection to the area.”
The company has been performing for general public and schools audiences at Riverside since 2013, providing a real impact on young people and their appreciation of Shakespeare.
“It was an excellent performance and the students were very positive about the play,” says one English Teacher.
“Brilliant…they came back with a renewed love for the play,” said another.
Over the years Sport for Jove has presented Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, Twelfth Night, The Taming of Shrew, Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet as well as dabbling in productions from other playwrights including Antigone by Sophocles, The Crucible by Arthur Miller and Away by Michael Gow.
“Even from our early days,” Steven continues, “Riverside has been a wonderful champion of Sport For Jove’s work, both in our general public and education offerings. As a small independent company with limited resources, getting an organisation like Riverside Theatres willing to continuously program our work, to champion us and promote our work, has been fundamental in our growth in this area. Riverside has been very useful in helping us to continue to engage with our existing Western Sydney audiences but also build a stronger larger one too.”
Sport for Jove return this season with their repertory production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth (June 20 – 23) and a new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (June 14 – 16) directed by Damien Ryan.
For more information about the different spaces and venue hire visit riversideparramatta.com.au/venues.