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Qld Shakespeare ensemble tells the story of Boggo Road Gaol

Above: Rebecca Murphy, the director

Brisbane was home to two of Australia’s most notorious institutions in the 1970s and 1980s: the Bjelke Petersen government and Boggo Road Gaol. The Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble’s latest production, the premiere of Bogga by Rob Pensalfini portrays the life of the Gaol against the backdrop of the decline and fall of Joh’s regime.

Told in the words of former officers and inmates of Boggo Road, drawn from oral histories collected by Brisbane historian Chris Dawson, the foremost expert on the gaol’s history, Bogga recounts daily life, riots, corruption, drug and sex scandals, murders and suicides. According to Bogga’s director, long time Ensemble member Rebecca Murphy, “The stories of the guards and prisoners are unique and amazingly detailed but it’s been fascinating to see how much of it we relate to. I’ve also been surprised by how often we laugh in rehearsal – a number of the stories are genuinely funny!”

Five actors, all members of QSE’s permanent acting ensemble, play a variety of officers and prisoners, who recount life in the gaol with passion and humour, and reflect on the changing nature of prisons and Queensland politics during and since the closure of the gaol at the end of the 1980s.

The production also features local music from the era, and audio bulletins on gaol riots from radio station 4ZZZ, who have been running a radio show for prisoners for almost forty years.

“Boggo Road, or ‘Bogga’ as it was known to residents, was a jail that stayed open well past its use-by date,” says playwright Pensalfini. “I met some prisoners who had been locked up there when we [QSE] started our Shakespeare Prison Project about ten years ago, and became fascinated by how the place reflected the values and struggles that were going on in broader Queensland society at the time. Prisons, I realised, contain all the values of the society around them, but in the crudest way, and in a pressure-cooker environment. I realised these stories made for high drama, and we as Queenslanders needed to hear them.”

Pensalfini and Dawson began work on Bogga during the Newman era, which threatened a return to some of the repressive policies of the Bjelke-Petersen government, especially in the realm of justice and corrections.

Bogga’s premiere season runs for two weeks only from November 8-18, in the Geoffrey Rush Drama Studio, at the University of Queensland’s St Lucia campus.

Season: Wed 8 - Sat 11 Nov 2017 + Wed 15 - Sat 18 Nov 2017 (7.30 pm); Matinée Sat 11 November (2 pm )

Preview: Wed 8 Nov 2017 (all tickets $25)

Opening Night Gala: Thur 9 Nov 2017

Q&A: Thur 16 Nov 2017 (20 min Session after the show with the cast, director, writer & historian.)

Tickets: $30, Concession $25, Group (10+) $24!

Venue: Geoffrey Rush Drama Studio, University of Queensland, Saint Lucia!

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