Anywhere Theatre comes to refresh Frankston (Daily Review)

Frankston is about 50 kilometres from Melbourne and is the ‘gateway’ to the rich and verdant Mornington Peninsula famous for its rolling vineyards and summer homes of the super-rich. Its setting on Port Phillip Bay made it an attractive location for Stanley Kramer’s 1959 film of Neville Shute’s apocalyptic 1957 novel On The Beach.  Read the full article at Crikey Daily Review


An apocalypse of sorts did befall Frankston in the following two decades as civic vandalism ran amok. Council after council oversaw the once charming bush-meet-beach hamlet turn its back on the Bay as they allowed the construction of brown office blocks and mini-malls. Many of these are still standing and act as a reminder of how architecture can shape a community.

Frankston rarely gets good press. In the 1970s it was where its youth rioted in the streets and it became known as a lower-income redoubt for a population of mostly Anglo heritage. Only a decade ago local authorities were piping Pachebel’s Canon through the loudspeakers at its train terminus to disperse Frankston’s luckless from fraternising in its subways.

But Frankston has changed as city leaders have begun beautifying its foreshore and introducing more arts events into the local calandar. The latest of these is the application of the successful “Anywhere Theatre Festival” which began in Brisbane four years ago. We spoke to its director, Paul Osuch, about its arrival in Frankston when 76 live shows will be performed at the “Anywhere Theatre Festival Frankston” from August 22 to September 6.

DR: How did this festival come about in Frankston?

PO: We had been looking for councils that were incredibly proactive, that were looking for new events and had an audience demand for arts events. We noticed that Anywhere in Brisbane was quite unique in that it was based throughout Brisbane and not just the inner city suburbs like many of the Melbourne festivals. We initially spoke to a few councils on the outer edges of Melbourne to support an application to Arts Victoria. In doing that, Frankston City Council came back to us and said they’d be keen to have Anywhere happen within Frankston as a stand alone project.

Had you been to or even heard of Frankston before your involvement with the Anywhere Theatre Festival?

I was born in Melbourne and and spent many a summer down the beach at Frankston during summer. I knew it was a place that people flocked to during summer but didn’t know as much about what happened over winter.

What is Frankston hoping to achieve from this?

Frankston for many people is seen the way I saw it as a kid — a place with a beach you went to during summer. Frankston City Council are really keen to show that there is a reason to come to Frankston outside of summer. Anywhere is one of those projects.

What are you offering Frankston?

We are offering Frankston a 16 day festival that makes the most of the very proactive businesses and performers and some exciting and fascinating shows that Frankston an Mornington Peninsula locals can enjoy without having to head into Melbourne city while creating something unique that drives the city slickers out to the area.

Frankston has/had other cultural festivals such as its Guitar Festival. What’s different about this?

The huge thing about Anywhere is that it is a proven concept from the four years in Brisbane. What this allows us to do is already have the knowledge, framework and support structures and be able to deliver something far more effectively than someone who tried to start up their own festival from scratch.

How engaged do you have to be with the local community to make this work?

Very. Every location we use for a performance is a local business that is providing their space rent free, whether it is Chisholm, the Frankston Skate Park, the National Trust or local cafe and restaurants. It is vital that they are engaged and that it shows local performers there is a way they can create work locally. It also means local audiences can see there is a way to have an experience that isn’t just about “going to a theatre”. Instead they go somewhere they maybe wanted to check out but hadn’t had a real reason to before.

What’s special about Frankston?

There is a real go-getting attitude. People see there are opportunities here and are making them happen. I think for me I was also surprised when I revisited as an adult about the different types of places that I could find here as someone wanted places to eat, but also as a parent. So things like the biggest skate park, McClelland Sculpture Park + Gallery that has the biggest sculpture prize in Australia, to the huge parks for kids like Ballam Park and the beautiful seaside park, award winning cafes and beautiful seaside restaurants like Eeny Meeny, Rocotillos, The Boathouse, The Deck, Sofia’s. It really is a place I think you can explore and that is what hope Anywhere helps people to do — explore the nooks and crannies and realise what is in the area.

How many of the 76 shows are by locals?

Quite a few. “Impromptu Improv” at Mechanics Institute, the Frankston Ladies Choir withGirls Just Want To Have Fun, the Peninsula Poets with “Soapbox Poetry”, Jessica Moody doing To Be Determined a show in Eeny Meeny cafe where you are unsure who is a customer and who is an actor. The choreographer of Periphery is from the area and Charlie Brown has the connection but is also doing a show for kids that draws together all the local stories from the area. We were really excited about the number of people that lived in or came from Frankston. Since releasing the program, we’ve had another 20 potential local acts for next year come out of the woodworks so I think next year will be even stronger with local content.

How did you choose the acts?

We put out a call for expressions of interest and at the same time approached performers that we knew were local or had been involved in Anywhere Brisbane and had a show we felt would fit perfectly and then worked with locations and businesses where those acts could work so when we knew we had the indoor climbing rock centre Bayside Rock it opened up the circus and acrobatics acts we normally wouldn’t have been able to fit in.

What did you learn from your last Anywhere Theatre Festival and how have you approached this one as a result?

Ooh, I’ve got a ten page document with things we’d do different from the last festival and the list never seems to get any smaller. For Frankston it was about making sure we had the right mix of performers and also that the shows were created by a lot of different groups. We found this year in Brisbane with 420 performances of 67 productions that there was less than two degrees of separation between all the acts. It’s a tight knit group there. Frankston we wanted to cast the net wider so that when we got all the performers and producers together they had to introduce each other instead of knowing everyone because they are also working on two other shows as well!

Is this festival for local audiences or do you want people from all over Melbourne to come?

The festival has been designed for locals and for anybody who can just hop in the car, drive down EastLink and find themselves in Frankston in less than half an hour for an evening or a weekend. We expect there will be people from all over the Peninsula as well as Melbournites who want to have an experience and see shows in a way that you won’t see at the Melbourne Fringe. I’m pretty sure I can tell you the Fringe doesn’t have a single show in an indoor climbing centre, the heritage house of a famous Australian author or one where you wait at a train station to hop into a Honda Jazz with two other people. I might be wrong. We designed the program to be a size that you could just fold out and “there it is” instead of having to work through 100 pages of acts when all you want is to see one show. We’ve already done the filtering for you.

How will you judge its success? 

We will judge the success by how people respond to it. At this point, we know the performers and the businesses and council hosting locations are really happy with where it’s at. Shows are starting to sell out and the way audiences latch onto it is vital, but in the end we judge the success by the fact that performers were able to produce work in rent free spaces with minimal costs and take home their box office without being slugged by venue  costs, technical costs and technical staff. We want artists to come out of Anywhere Theatre Festival able to put on another show instead of having to put it off for another year while they work non-stop for another year to pay off their Fringe credit card debt.