Celebrating Pride Month dazzled in drag at Geelong Arts Centre

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Celebrating Pride Month dazzled in drag at Geelong Arts Centre

Image Credit: Ben Andrews
Words by Tammy Walters

As the vibrant hues of Pride month illuminate the cultural scene in Geelong and its surrounds, Geelong Arts Centre’s REWIRE program welcomes a must see indie-queer theatre piece for the ages.

As presented by Soft Tread Enterprises in association with The Maybe Pile, Trophy Boys is billed as an exciting epic, with three performances running Friday 14 June and Saturday 15 June.

In this fantastically camp theatre piece, audiences are transported into the pressure cooker environment of a debate prep room, where the all-boys team from St Imperium College prepares to tackle their final and most challenging debate yet. The topic? That feminism has failed women. As the boys grapple with the task of arguing in the affirmative, they confront their own biases, privilege, and preconceptions, leading to a journey of self-discovery and introspection. 

Performed by a female and non-binary cast in drag, each character defies easy categorization with dark humour and stunning wit, blurring the lines between performance and authenticity. Led by a stellar ensemble cast comprising Fran Sweeney-Nash, Leigh Lule, Gaby Seow, and the playwright herself, Emmanuelle Mattana, Trophy Boys presents a nuanced portrayal of its characters, each grappling with their own beliefs, desires, and insecurities. Through razor-sharp dialogue and poignant moments of vulnerability, the play delves into the complexities of masculinity and the ways in which societal expectations shape individual identity.  

Stay up to date with what’s happening within the region’s art scene here.

Challenging traditional norms with hilarious humour, this must-see production warmly invites audiences to confront the complexities of gender, privilege and power in contemporary settings. 

Cameron Woodhead, senior theatre critic of The Age and prolific reviewer of the performing arts in Australia, awarded the performance five-stars, branding Trophy Boys a revelation. 

He says, Theatre lovers should rush to see Trophy Boys, the hilarious and devastating debut play from Emmanuelle Mattana… It’s astonishing to see a shoestring production from young indie theatre artists so secure and artistically complete. The script is powerful and ferociously intelligent; the performances witty and exuberant and, crucially, empathetic… Trophy Boys is a revelation.”  

At its core, this remarkable theatre piece tackles tricky subjects with dark humour and sharp satire.  In its exploration of identity, privilege, and power dynamics, Trophy Boys exemplifies the spirit of Pride – a celebration of authenticity, solidarity, and the ongoing struggle for equality.  

Celebrating Pride Month through the lens of drag performance, this play subverts expectations and invites audiences to question the constructs that govern our lives. In a society where conformity often reigns supreme, Trophy Boys offers a refreshing antidote – a celebration of difference and a testament to the power of self-expression. 

A truly unmissable show as part of Geelong Arts Centre’s REWIRE pillar of bold, boundary defying works. The REWIRE Program is just one of the many outstanding programs shining this year at Geelong Arts Centre. 

On the artist development side, Geelong Arts Centre was recently announced as the recipient of a transformative grant from The Ian Potter Foundation in April, with funds distributed to expand and enhance their flagship development program, Creative Engine.

Creative Engine is Geelong Art Centre’s support base for regional creatives, including theatre makers, choreographers, dancers, musicians, cabaret artists, experimental artists, writers and many more.

The program offers support to artists through funding and grants, in-kind support and access to mentors, along with the time and space to collaborate, develop skills, and trial ideas within the Geelong Arts Centre studios.

Creative Engine has already seen enormous success from participating artists. Connor Morel is a name embedded in the Geelong entertainment scene across a multitude of arts and music mediums. Through his Ignition creative development time at Geelong Arts Centre in 2022, Connor built his work-in-progress stage show A Lovely Day To Be Online. The show has been taken to audiences far and wide as part of New Zealand’s Fringe Festival and Melbourne’s International Comedy Festival with a massive return to home in September 2023, where A Lovely Day To Be Online was performed to a sold out audience in the Open House at the Geelong Arts Centre’s Grand Opening Festival. 


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Morel has since seen success on the stage, embodying drummer extraordinaire DJ Fontana in Elvis: A Musical Revolution. The stage show has seen Morel tour across the country in the ensemble, playing in major theatres to sold out audiences and appearing on Channel 7 morning program, Sunrise.   

This isn’t a stand alone success story; Stacey Carmichael and Xavier McGettigan were recipients of Creative Engine funding to develop their work, performative piece, a/lone. Developed inside the walls of Geelong Arts Centre, a/lone has burst through the rehearsal room across the Indian Ocean and into Edinburgh Fringe Festival. 

a/lone is a dynamic original production building from physical theatre, contemporary dance and verbatim theatre to share the story of disconnection and loneliness. A deeply collaborative performance with a live score from Kirstin Honey, direction from Janine McKenzie and Carmichael and McGettigan working with Emily Jacker-Lawrence for performance movement, a/lone is a deeply profound body of work. The performance is currently touring through Victoria including stop-ins to Bendigo Engine Room and the Bellarine’s Potato Shed.

These prime examples attest to the success of the Creative Engine program, building a case for its expansion. With the significant $700,000 funding support of the Ian Potter Foundation, Geelong Arts Centre will be introducing a new tier of support, Launchpad. 

Launchpad aims to create more pathways for artists to develop their professional and artistic practice by bridging the gap between creating new work and presenting to audiences. The new initiative offers artists the chance to test and showcase their work in a professional theatre setting, providing a platform for artistic experimentation and audience engagement. The presentation will be taking place in Geelong Arts Centre’s The Open House theatre.

In addition, the Ian Potter Foundation grant will fund the employment of two Associate Artists. The two 12-month part time contracts will allow these employees to gain access to purpose-built studios, mentoring and professional experience with the support working towards the development of artistic practice as culminated by the creation of new works.

But wait, there’s more. The funding will also be distributed to an artist residency arm, designed to enhance the skills and crafts of 15 artists from the Geelong and Bellarine regions. It includes an intensive series of workshops and mentoring sessions to assist in the future development of the region’s arts sector.

These moves also come after the exciting announcement of Geelong Arts Centres partnership with education titan Oxygen College, which will see the introduction of a Diploma of Musical Theatre added to the education providers course list for 2025. Undertaken across both state-of-the-art facilities, the partnership aims to foster the development of emerging musical theatre contributors, to raise and retain the discipline in the region.

Geelong Arts Centre is bubbling with opportunities for artists, makers, movers, and theatre-goers to both create and see exciting theatre in the region.

For all upcoming shows and to secure your tickets to see Trophy Boys head to geelongartscentre.org.au.