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After studying theatre in Melbourne, where he had several shows produced at La Mama, Stephen Carleton moved to Darwin where he worked as an ensemble actor with Darwin Theatre Company (1995-1999). In 1997 he formed Knock-em-Down Theatre in Darwin.
He completed a Masters in Creative Writing from The University of Queensland and a Ph.D. that explored representations of the Australian deep north in contemporary theatre history.
Stephen's play, Constance Drinkwater and the Final Days of Somerset, a finalist in the 2004 Queensland Premier's Drama Award, examines the impact of European settlement in Far North Queensland's frontier country, and its legacy.
'Joh for PM launches this July at Brisbane Powerhouse to take Queenslanders on a musical romp through the life of ex-Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen, the Queensland icon who set state politics alight.
'The musical comedy satirizes the bizarre events that occurred in Australian politics during the Bjelke-Petersen reign. Set at a fundraiser for Joh in 1987, audiences will want to sing along to original tunes such as Pumpkin Scone Diplomacy, Feeding the Chooks and the most catchy political song ever, Joh for PM.
'Bjelke Petersen was Queensland’s longest serving, longest-lived, most quotable Premier. He was one of the best-known and most controversial political figures of 20th century Australia. Award-winning playwright Stephen Carleton (The Narcissist, The Turquoise Elephant, Bastard Territory) and Broadway composer Paul Hodge (Clinton: The Musical) have taken inspiration from these historic events to create one of the best musicals to come out of Queensland.
'This toe-tapping, hilarious cautionary tale will resonate with Queenslanders who lived through the Joh era, as well as those who are yet to learn about this colourful time in our State’s history. Join us for a laugh, a joke and a bloody good time. ' (Production summary)
'Russell’s ghosts were kind of at rest. He was at peace with it all, even the fact that he didn't know who his biological father was. His mother, Lois, disappeared when he was eight, leaving him to be raised by Neville, a stalwart of the no-nonsense Regional Right.
'It’s Darwin, 2001, and Russell and his partner Alistair have transformed Russell’s childhood home into the ‘Tectonic Plate’; ‘hip urban café and art gallery by day, queer cabaret dive by night’.
'When three separate events over the course of two weeks start to churn things up, the ghosts from Russell’s past begin to intrude on his present and he embarks on a quest to determine his identity.
'The search transports him back to the bohemian world of his childhood; Darwin, 1975, and beyond to his conception; PNG, 1967, where bored ex-TAA hostie, Lois, has tired of Neville’s conservatism and joined the ‘Moresby Arts Theatre’, where she soon starts courting liaisons with members of the community positioned more dangerously at its anarchic edges.
'To a soundtrack of Suzi Quatro, Shirley Bassey and Nana Mouskouri, Russell pieces together the events leading to that fateful night when his favourite Abba record was broken and everything else fell apart.' (Production summary)
The Turquoise Elephant is a bitingly-funny absurdist work, depicting the chaos of a future world rapidly succumbing to climate change. As the environmental disaster unfolds, three generations of women from a privileged political family watch on - from their hermetically sealed, temperature controlled home. But just how safe are they? It's a play about contrasts: grotesque privilege and dispossession, sanity and insanity, hope and fatalism.
Source: ABC Radio National. Interview with Stephen Carleton available here.