Three opening nights in one month: Perth theatre group hunts success


It's often said that creative types need to starve for their art.

But for Perth-based theatre company The Last Great Hunt, that kind of attitude is anathema - they'd rather make the art they want and find
ways to make it pay.

And as a fully professional theatre company with seven core artists and three support staff on the books, The Last Great Hunt is trying to crack the code for balancing artistic freedom while keeping the wolf from the door.

The troupe has three opening nights coming up in June for three original shows at three separate venues across Perth - and that's on top of shows it has touring the world and booked to perform months in advance.

"This is absolutely professional - we had to prove that we could make a season of work and make work at a high quality and get opportunities to take work beyond Perth," said Gita Bezard, a group member who's directing a new work called 'The Advisors.'

The show is a darkly funny look at the tips we all give each other, and offstage, if there's any advice the group seems to
have followed, it's to diversify their options.

"We have some government funding, but we also have loyal donors who support us and their support is vital to allow us to do our work," Ms Bezard said.

"We don't compromise. We make what we love and then we try and go out and get people to support that."

The Advisors is the latest play from The Last Great Hunt.

The Advisors is the latest play from The Last Great Hunt. Photo: Cameron Etchells

While they get part of their funding through State Government support and other grants, the group's emphasis is on generating revenue from ticket sales of local shows, then getting revenue from exporting their artistic products and winning support from local patrons.

The most successful example of their model is The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer, which has toured the world for many years and generated a huge buzz for The Last Great Hunt and the show's creator (and core artist) Tim Watts.

"We're a theatre company that makes a very eclectic set of theatre. We don't have any particular style - I think when you come to a Last
Great Hunt show you can expect the unexpected," Ms Bezard said.

"We make visual, family friendly work, we also make text based work, interactive work, large and small scale. We really like experimenting
and always trying to surprise our audience."

This diverse body of work and its success with audiences in Perth and overseas reflects a growing sensibility within Australia's arts
sector; that mastering the business side of creativity is vital in a time where the federal and state governments are cutting back on

Alvin Sputnik has been one of the group's most successful shows.

Alvin Sputnik has been one of the group's most successful shows. Photo: The Last Great Hunt

But the group also believes this highlights that arts itself is a big contributor to the economy and deserves recognition as a lifter,
not a leaner.

The latest figures from WA's Chamber of Arts and Culture show the sector generates $10.6 billion for the state economy - more than
agriculture - and employs 42,000 people.

That said, arts remains a struggle, and despite the support they've received so far, nothing is certain for The Last Great Hunt.

Signalling their desire to expand and become more self-supporting, The Last Great Hunt recently appointed lawyer and actor Andrew Baker as its Partnerships and Philanthropy Coordinator.

His mission is to boost the coffers to support more shows and more tours - and like all things in show business, he said the key element
to that remains the audience.

"We have a diverse funding pool, but part of the growth strategy is to tap into lovers of theatre in Perth who want to support WA artists who
stay in Perth and make great art to show to the world, Mr Baker said.

"These are people who have chosen to stay in Perth to develop their careers and the sector. Their shows are world renowned, and the goal here is art and economy without compromising either."

With three shows about to launch and plenty more in development, Mr Baker said The Last Great Hunt is pushing as hard as it can to bring
cutting edge shows to Perth audiences that will challenge and entertain.

"Theatre does things Netflix can't do. It's intimate. It's real. People need to remember that theatre can show you things you just
can't get anywhere else. And The Last Great Hunt does that so well."

The Advisors opens on the 31st of May at the State Theatre Centre of Western Australia. The Irresistible, a co-production with Side Pony Productions, opens at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art on 14 June, while The Great Ridolphi opens on 28 June as part of the Subiaco Theatre Festival at the Subiaco Arts Centre.

This story Three opening nights in one month: Perth theatre group hunts success first appeared on WA Today.