Toowoomba’s Empire Church Theatre will host a daring new production that will leave audiences thinking deeply and laughing loudly.
Debuting this weekend, Young Jean Lee’s barrier-breaking ‘Straight White Men’ will perform for one night only in a production that features a star-studded cast and creative team, and a plotline that needs to be seen to be believed.
Part satire, part political experiment, ‘Straight White Men’ tells the story of a father who is reconnecting with his three sons over a holiday weekend. The odd comedy shares banter and laughs, but also critiques pride and privilege. Designed to make audiences reflect on their own relationships, the play encourages deep dialogue within a genuinely humorous portrayal.
Last presented at La Boite Theatre in 2016, this exciting work now makes its regional premiere, presented by Our Yakka – a new organisation that produces cultural events, develops accessible learning opportunities and in turn promotes arts, culture, and language. Producer and director, Trent Sellars, commented on the impact of the production and the star-studded cast that will bring the complex roles to life.
“Lee’s show is the perfect mix of satire and family drama – watching it is like being a fly on the wall,” said Sellars.
“The show features a fantastic line-up of Toowoomba comedians with Tristan James, Justin Tamblyn and Brendan Thomas-Ryland. Match that against Evan Hollis, playing their father Ed, who can tear at the heartstrings with a single line of dialogue, and you have the perfect blend of performers.”
Fresh off the stage in Empire Theatre’s ‘We Will Rock You’, Justin Tamblyn will star as one of the title characters, Jake. This new role presents Tamblyn with an exciting challenge, especially as he steps out of the world of musicals and into the world of plays.
“This is my first play! Having performed in several musicals in the past, this role has been much more based in reality, and I’ve enjoyed the experience,” said Tamblyn.
“Finding the character’s story arc and motivations has been challenging. Jake could be a typical straight white man. He works in a corporate environment. He is a banker. He is also very aware that he is and continues to maintain the white male privilege position.
“While he can sympathise, he has no intention of trying to make a difference. Why should he?”
Theatre in Toowoomba holds a special place in Tamblyn’s heart. Not only was his favourite role as Bert in Empire Theatre’s 2015 production of ‘Mary Poppins’, but in the same production, Tamblyn met his now-wife, who starred as the title role.
Since then, Tamblyn has been part of an active arts community in Toowoomba, which is “small, but strong and growing”. As such, ‘Straight White Men’ is likely to impact locals in more ways than one.
“’Straight White Men’ is a thought-provoking piece of theatre,” said Tamblyn.
“This is a successful Broadway play and a challenging piece of work that needs balls to produce and perform. Audiences may not get another chance anytime soon to see a show like this.”
Audiences will have one chance to witness the action firsthand as the production plays on Saturday at Toowoomba’s iconic Empire Church Theatre, a location that oozes historical charm. Presented in the round, it also means audiences will be able to gain many different perspectives in a confronting storyline.
“Normally the audience sits directly in front and the actors play everything straight out. In this production, the audience envelops the stage area, and they get to experience a different way of watching the events unfold,” said Tamblyn.
“This has given some different freedoms to the actors, an added sense of reality to the situations.”
Speaking on the show, Tamblyn reiterates this is a piece for the whole community as it allows them to reflect internally on some of their own choices.
“I think this show is about family – our relationships with those we love and are closest to. It’s also about our society – the way we behave, think, and feel. What we do to survive or fit in. What drives people to act and make the choices they do,” said Tamblyn.
“The audience may be reminded by some things they see in themselves, friends, family, or people they work with. I hope that everyone will leave with a different take on what happened and why. I hope that it could encourage discussions within friends and family about some of the themes in the play.”
‘Straight White Men’ performs for one night only at Toowoomba’s Empire Theatre this Saturday, 2 July 2022. For tickets and more information, visit Our Yakka’s website.
Theatre Haus has a double pass for you to see Our Yakka’s ‘Straight White Men’.