History of Full Throttle Theatre Company
Tropic Line was founded by Jean-Pierre Voos in 1986 to replace Michael Lanchberry’s Matchbox Co. which had ceased when he left JCU in 1985. Tropic Line’s main purpose was to offer senior students and graduates of Performing Arts at JCU the opportunity to present theatre at a professional standard and to meet a variety of critical audiences through touring.
In its early years, Tropic Line toured to Canberra (Arts Centre & Gorman House), Sydney (NIDA’s Fig Tree Theatre), Bateman’s Bay, Adelaide (Festival Fringe), Melbourne (Anthill Theatre & Gasworks Theatre) and Armidale. It frequently toured in the North Queensland region: Ingham, Innisfail, Cairns, Mossman (Karnak Theatre), Charters Towers. It was also invited to represent Australia at Tadashi Suzuki’s Toga-Mura Festival in Japan.
With the demise of the New Moon Company (of Rockhampton, Mackay, Townsville & Cairns) in the early 90s, Voos began to position Tropic Line as a professional company for the region and to this end both he and the company separated from James Cook University in late 1994.
While in its eight years at the University Tropic line averaged some three productions annually, the ensuing ten years saw an opening up of possibilities with the company presenting, on average, 6 plays a year. Of the 121 plays, over a third  were Australian works, including 31 by Queenslanders and of these, 21 were presented as ‘world premieres’.
Several productions have been toured by NARPACA on their circuit from Toowoomba to Cairns, and importantly, with workshops as well as plays, the company visited smaller NQ townships including Ayr, Hughenden, Richmond, Cloncurry, Cannington, Julia Creek, Mt. Isa and Charters Towers. In 2001 Tropic Line was invited to the 5th Fortress Theatre Festival in Suwon, Korea.
2001 also saw the formation of a branch of the company, TLC (Terrifically Low Cost), whose principal aim was to nurture the talents of emerging artists, be they actors, directors or local playwrights, by working on smaller scale plays (smaller scale in length/cast size/cost) which also lent themselves to being presented in smaller, and sometimes unusual, venues. The nature of TLC’s work was such that it allowed them to be more demanding of the audience, perhaps more experimental, more challenging, less “safe”. These events were certainly a stimulating and healthy addition to the local theatre scene.
In Townsville Tropic Line, without a home of its own, was presenting plays in no less than 21 very different venues, including the Echlin St. Quarry, St. James’ Synod Hall, The Blue Bottle Cafe, the Basement Theatre (of the Civic Theatre), Teakles Gardens, Panorama House, The Old Magistrates Court, the 7th floor Car Park at Metro Quays, a disused store in Flinders West, the Mater Hospital Conference Centre, Molly Malone’s Irish Pub, the Millennium Club, St. James Cathedral, the Prawn Stop Cafe, the Perc Tucker Gallery, Umbrella Studios, Pinnacles Gallery, La Bamba Cafe Garden, the Museum of Tropical Queensland, Queens Gardens and the Civic Theatre.
In 2002, Tropic Line merged with its successor at JCU, HardSun, to become Tropic Sun. The new company devoted itself, as did Tropic Line, to developing theatre in the NQ region. As much as possible, it attempted to keep local talent from draining to the South by providing employment for professionals, while also avoiding having to import talent. At the same time, it offered development opportunities to the many community actors and theatre workers who lived in the region through participation in large cast plays such as an annual Shakespeare and by offering skills development workshops, sometimes with the assistance of The Queensland Theatre Co.
In 2002, Tropic Sun was awarded production of the year for its stunning production of Oscar Wilde’s Salome, again in 2003 for Shakespeare’s As You Like It and in 2005 for Henry IV.
In 2005 Tropic Sun developed partnerships with its two nearest professional neighbouring companies, Just Us Theatre Ensemble (JUTE) in Cairns and Crossroad Arts in Mackay. Now also encompassing the Darwin Theatre Company, the group goes by the name of ‘Theatre-To-The-Edge'(TTTE).
Collaboration between the various companies is growing apace with both collaborations in the creation of productions and with regular touring of shows between venues, funded by ARTS (Arts Regional Touring Service).
Theatre to the Edge has since had it’s funding cut, however the new Regional Wave Cohort involves regional theatre companies from all over Australia including Mudlark in Tasmania, Crossroad Arts in Mackay, Jute Theatre in Cairns, Darwin Theatre Company, Canberra and Bundaberg. Recently the Australia Council approved a grant for Cultural Leadership, a project that brings these organisations together to work with Dramaturge Peter Mathieson to mentor them and other cultural leaders in creating work with a dramaturlogical eye.
Late in 2006 the company moved to the Court Theatre, the former Magistrates Court building at the corner of Stokes and Sturt Streets in the City. Further information on the history of this venue can be found below. This excellent building provides office, rehearsal and our own performance space.
Jean-Pierre died in early 2008. You can find out more about his life here. Madonna Davies and Karen Gibb jointly took on the role of Co-Artistic Directors. The death of JP strongly affected the organisation, and it was soon realised that a new direction would need to be taken.
The company officially became “Full Throttle Theatre Company” in 2010, aimed at attracting a younger audience and diversifying its services to encompass all of the creative industries. 2010 was a busy year as the company put in the hard yards to rebuild itself and get back on its feet, and it certainly paid off. The swirly graphic in our logo is a New Zealand Maori symbol for new beginnings.
Despite the challanges of rebranding the company image and significant changes in staffing and logistics, Full Throttle Theatre Company soon gained a reputation as a vibrant, popular and community-minded organisation up to a standard which we are sure would make Jean-Pierre proud.
In 2012, Full Throttle Theatre Company merged with Props Youth Theatre, which became the youth arm of the organisation. The first major theatrical production produced through Props under the Full Throttle banner was “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” in 2012.
Last updated 4th Apr 2012
History of Props Youth Theatre
Props Youth Theatre was founded in 2000 by two local directors, actresses and drama teachers – Karen Vane and Michelle Weaver. Their vision was to provide a place where children could be in fully staged scripted works – not just when children were required to play next to adults, but playing all parts, and being involved in all facets of the production. Their vision has been a great success and has seen the beginnings of careers in the theatre, the cultivation of a passion for the arts and the birth of many long friendships and collaborations.
The inaugural production was the musical comedy Bilge and featured many of the top young local performers – many who have gone on to work professionally. Props’ current Artistic Director, Todd Barty, was still at school at the time, and played an elderly Scottish eccentric!
Todd joined the directorial team in 2001 and continued working with Props while studying acting at university and establishing himself as a professional theatre worker. For several years, Karen, Michelle and Todd would work together on directing the company’s mammoth mid-year production and direct separate projects for the annual Totally Awesome Christmas Show and the North Queensland Festival of One-Act Plays, where the company was awarded for its work. Workshops were also held sporadically to develop the skills of old and new members and a thriving community developed around the company.
A highlight of this period was Props’ first production of Peter Pan in 2003, in an adaptation called Peter Pan: The Crock Rock Musical. Audiences came in droves to see the performance by seventy local children, with costumes designed by renowned local fashion designer Mary Ede. Todd’s mother, Jo Barty, was the musical director of this production and would fill this role in the company for several years to come. The production received excellent public feedback.
In 2006, Todd took over the major directing responsibilities as Michelle moved on to another career path and Karen became busy with other commitments in local theatre. Todd’s first major production for the company was Getting to Know… Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. His mother Jo, then the president of Props, musically directed and co-produced. It was also the first Props production for company choreographer Melinda Licciardello – a trained music-theatre actress. The production was another success with audiences, delighted by the frothy, fairground design, colourful characters and enchanting music. Props was also recognised at the Townsville City Council Arts Awards for its contribution to local theatre that year. Karen Vane accepted the award on behalf of the company.
Karen Vane maintained her involvement with the company, directing productions for the Christmas show and working as stage manager, adviser, producer and all round supporter on most of the company’s work.
Sadly, in 2007, Jo Barty was diagnosed with cancer. She assisted as a singing coach for that year’s production of Seussical Jnr. but was unable to be part of Into the Woods Jnr.the following year. She passed away soon after.
Todd continued to direct the major mid-year shows and several Christmas plays, cultivating a unique, quirky and fantastical sensibility that appealed to the young people. A house style began to emerge that was characterised by minimal and physical storytelling, stylised costume and, of course, excellent performances by the young people – achieved through professional script analysis and workshop methodologies.
Seussical Jnr. was the first production for a new young actress called Brittany Santariga, whose mother Kerry also became part of the company. Kerry learned the art of costume making, soon mastering it and meeting the eccentric demands of the Artistic Director while cultivating her own flair, become the company’s costume co-ordinator. She also brought her business acumen to the committee, becoming the president and an invaluable asset to the organisation.
A highlight of this period was, strangely enough, Props’s second production of Peter Panin 2010! This time, the production was of J.M. Barrie’s original script. The production featured no props – an irony for Props Youth Theatre – and the young people learned and employed mime technique in an exciting and imaginative performance. The production was awarded Production of the Year at Townsville City Council’s Arts and Culture Awards in 2011.
Again, in 2011, the company faced a sad loss when Karen Vane, one of its founding directors and a tireless supporter of Props and all local theatre, passed away from a stroke. Karen’s students from Pimlico State High School honoured her memory by continuing with the play she had been working on with them for the 2011 Festival of One-Act Plays. “The Guardians”, which was written by Karen, won Best Junior Play, Best Director and Best Unpublished Play.
Props Youth Theatre also continued on, honouring Karen’s memory. The joyous, slapstick musical comedy Getting to Know… Once Upon a Mattress was the company’s major production for 2011. With its lively performances, colourful costumes and cartoonish sets created by award winning set designer Glenn Shield. This delightful production would have made Karen proud.
For Christmas in 2011, Todd decided to supervise and mentor a new generation of directors. Damien Crespan, an emerging illustrator, directed The Adventures of Triz by his younger brother Haydn, a local emerging writer. Todd, who had written several plays for the company over the years, gave his play The Adventures of Goldilockpick and Little Red Riding Hoodlum to Joanne Renton and Brittany Santariga – senior high school students who had by now been with the company for several years. Joanne and Brittany directed and played the title characters.
Madonna Davies, General Manager of Full Throttle Theatre Company, became part of Props in 2011. Props needed infrastructure such as a permanent home, storage space and regular staffing to continue its valuable services and, at Madonna’s invitation, Props became the youth arm of Full Throttle Theatre Company, the oldest regional professional theatre company in Australia, at the beginning of 2012.
Now the youth arm of a professional theatre company, Props Youth Theatre embarked on an exciting programme for 2012. Todd’s production of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe was underway, with Brittany and Joanne as Assitant Directors and Kerry Santariga producing. Madonna began writing a new work – The Breeze in the Bush – for the company to perform and new events and activities were in the making.
Eleven years after its conception by Karen Vane and Michelle Weaver, the vision that is Props still thrives – theatre performed by Townsville’s brilliant young actors for an enthralled young audience!
History of The Old Magistrate’s Courthouse
One of Townsville’s oldest and most iconic buildings, the old Magistrate’s Court, which now houses Full Throttle Theatre Company, Music Centre NQ and Townsville Writers and Publishers Centre, was built in the 1870s. It was designed by reknowned architect F.D.G. Stanley, who also designed Townsville’s first prison (the administration block of which now forms part of Central State School), Townsville’s first post office, Townsville’s first hospital, several iconic houses and the Union Bank, which is currently used as Perc Tucker Regional Gallery. It is worth noting, in case you are doing research, that Stanley Street is not named after him, but after an earlier cartographer in the area (as was Blackwood St.).
The courthouse was built by the Townsville firm J and J Rooney. Work began on the construction of the Courthouse in 1873 but a lack of suitable clay for bricks caused serious delays and the building was not opened until 1877. The finished single storied brick structure was simple and dignified and featured an impressive four-columned portico. The building was used as a courthouse for almost a hundred years until new court facilities were built in the early 1970s.
The Courthouse was threatened with demolition until the Townsville City Council purchased the building, using it as a museum and visitor centre until 2006, when it was leased to Tropic Sun and Music Centre NQ as a venue for cultural events.
Excavation work took place under and around the building in late 2011 whist we were installing a new air conditioning system. During this work several artifacts of historical significance were uncovered, including parts of a Chinese-patterned jug and various voting cards and election documents which had been lost through the floorboards of the courthouse over the course of the 20th century. We carried out research into the history of these items and donated them to Townsville Library.
The building features a magnicent front verandah, which leads into an entrance foyer. To the right of the foyer is the door to the old magistrate’s office, which was used as a meeting room when the building was a museum, and is now used as “the front room” where artists can display or create new works. To the left of the foyer is another old office which was later used as a community information centre and is now where our licenced bar is situated. The double doors on the far side of the foyer lead into a large high-roofed space with a polished wooden floor, currently used as the theatre, and previously housing the main courtroom. To either side of this space are the side verandahs of the building. In the rear of the building are our offices and the offices of Music Centre NQ. At the very back, connected to the building, is an old gaol cell, which we currently use as a storage and archive area, affectionately referred to as “the dungeon”.
You can find the facebook fan page for the old courthouse building (not to be confused with Full Throttle Theatre Company itself) here.