North Queensland Theatre Company (trading as New Moon Theatre) was established in 1982, a prodigy and joint action of seven local authorities: in tropical Townsville, Cairns, Mackay and Rockhampton. Touring to large municipal theatres in these Great Barrier Reef cities, the largest production was GUYS AND DOLLS.
A programme note for GUYS AND DOLLS, 1985 (directed by Helmut Bakaitis):
GUYS AND DOLLS is the first professional show ever to be wholly rehearsed and ‘manufactured’ in ROCKHAMPTON. Twenty-three company members have enjoyed their first month of living in our new base city, even if our incongruous presence, singing and dancing on the lawns of Bolsover Street, has provoked curiosity. We may look garish but we are not mysterious! We look forward to meeting more Central Queenslanders socially!
Since last season, New Moon has undertaken a successful co-production with Athena Drama Company in Mackay for International Youth Year. MARK DALY directed and choreographed an improvised play, POWER OR ELSE at the Theatre Royal. Upon our return to Rockhampton, we are to undertake rehearsed playreadings with local actors, of new scripts by BARBARA BIRCHALL and GEOFF DANAHER. We are sorry that such community theatre work has not yet occurred in Townsville or Cairns, but we cannot have a simultaneous presence in all of our cities. Ultimately the North Queensland Theatre Company saga may shut down: ideally when it’s time to have a resident company in EACH CITY.
Like our three previous openings, NED KELLY, CABARET and GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES – tonight’s performance of GUYS AND DOLLS has been generously sponsored by SHELL AUSTRALIA. We thank Shell for their enlightened involvement over four years.
As before, we aim to find a production style that will make every performance, including ON OUR SELECTION and TRUMPETS AND RASPBERRIES, a new, eye-opening experience for the audience. We are committed wholeheartedly to work that is genuinely exciting and suitable for our large theatres, new audiences and our ensemble’s creative imaginations.
The Company will not rest on its laurels. No theatre can stand still. To hold one’s horses in theatre is tantamount to a step backwards. The arts have travelled an enormous distance in North and Central Queensland in the past five years. The fostering and financial support of the network of new civic theatres and community arts programmes has become recognised as a responsibility of local, state and federal governments - even if the level of that support remains a bone of contention. It is fashionable to ‘initiate’ new arts ‘projects’, but harder to maintain them. We began and continue with no capital base - our assets are solely the company members and a few frocks. We are hampered by the pruning of arts funding nationwide. This year we have had to contract from four to three productions, and start later. The costs of touring musicals are now record-breaking. However, the Company continually reviews its positive and negative aspects in the context of its future; 1986 is very vulnerable. Changes in political control, or even to the whims and manoeuvrings of different ‘power blocs’ within funding bodies, withdrawal or severe reduction in subsidy by any body, would be traumatic, and probably fatal.
We do not want subsidy to buy our way out of trouble - our combined talents solve the challenges with creative ingenuity. If you enjoy our productions, we earnestly invite you to become a member of the Company for a $10 subscription. We need this support to sustain an adventurous future with new blood. We will be asking individual members to ‘adopt’ a politician, so that we are not reliant upon controversial correspondents for notice in the state parliament! A members’ forum in each city will be held during the 1985 season. Please send your cheque to New Moon at P.O. Box 391, Rockhampton 4700. There are also some great parties lined up for members and friends! We look forward to meeting you.
"New Moon shines on the deep north: a company of top professionals, bravado and energy, exuding a youthful vitality and a thoroughly contemporary mood. It calls itself 'Pleasure Tested' and promotes its actors and itself in proud and vigorous ways, colourfully and as frequently as possible" - The Australian, 9 July 1985.
Paul Iles was consultant to Townsville City Council from 1978, collaborating on the set up of the company with Cllr Sheila Keefe, John Lamb, manager of Townsville Civic Theatre and Ian Satchwell, manager of the Rockhampton Pilbeam Theatre. He joined the company in 1981 as first producer. The artistic directors were Peter Barclay, Terence O'Connell and Helmut Bakaitis. In 1984, a surf-rock musical, Beach Blanket Tempest, toured interstate, to Alice Springs, Adelaide, Canberra and Sydney.
For an investigation into regional theatre in Australia, see Geoffrey Milne, Theatre (Un)limited: Australian theatre since the 1950s, Amsterdam and New York, Rodopi, 2004. The archive of New Moon Theatre is deposited at James Cook University of North Queensland Special Collections, Townsville.