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The $5 Theatre Co was an independent theatre company that operated in Melbourne from 1990–1996 and performed it’s work in the space occupied by Anthill Theatre in South Melbourne. The core company consisted of Melanie Beddie, Tom Considine Chris Corbett, Glenn Perry and Victoria Eagger who determined artistic policy and Sue Strano who acted as an administrative advisor. Numerous guest artists were also invited to work on various projects.
The principal aim of the $5 Theatre Co was to embody some of the ideas expressed in Grotowski’s Towards A Poor Theatre, by working with a primary focus on the actor and the word, employing rigorous design constraints and by generating and developing new work and new writing. The company was interested in exploring a stripped-back aesthetic that relied on the imaginative use of the minimum and in constantly challenging the boundaries of what is particular to theatre. The subsequent productions of $5 Theatre Company refined a minimal production aesthetic so that a lack of resources became a virtue rather than a necessity. Productions usually explored one design motif, often coming from a thematic angle.
The company experimented with creating challenging and entertaining theatre with low-ticket prices that aimed to encourage participation in the theatrical experience by a broad section of the community. The company believed theatre could be an exchange in which the goodwill and imagination of the audience are enlisted by the style of presentation.
From 1990-1996 the company produced six new seasons of work and commissioned and performed eleven new plays. The company’s work tended to begin from the written work and was a blend of both contemporary Australian work and existing texts including adaptions of prose. Our first production was a season of two plays, Unveiling by Vaclav Havel and Dedication by Chris Corbett. The following year we commissioned six Melbourne playwrights (Hannie Rayson, Andrew Bovell, Pam Leversha, Frank Bren, Rod Poole, Julie-Anne O’Brien) to write a short play. These were then produced together to form a season entitled Suitcases in a 1000 Room Hotel. In January 1993 the company presented The Master & Margarita, an adaption by Glenn Perry from the novel by Bulgakov. All three productions were box office and critical success. In 1993 the company received funding from the Australia Council for a three-week development programme. In 1994 the company presented Unsettled, three short plays by Australian women, Millicent Armstrong, Miles Franklin and a commission from Pam Leversha as a response to these earlier writers work. This project received funding from Australia Council, Vic Arts, and Myer Foundation. This production was also very well received by both the public and critics. In October 1995 we presented the premiere of Elsinore by Chris Corbett. Our final production was a devised piece about gambling called Double or Nothing performed in December 1996.
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