Indigenous theatre students given opportunity to move ‘Up the Ladder’

Lara Baxter

THE Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts (ACPA) believes they have created the perfect recipe for young Indigenous success, a recipe that was showcased in their recent theatre triumph, Up the Ladder.Up the Ladder _ Hero image-2

The Indigenous arts training organisation collaborated with QPAC on the show, which took the ingredients of an inspirational storyline, a celebration of Indigenous culture and an exciting opportunity for young actors, dancers and singers to showcase their talents, and created a hugely successful theatre  production.

Up the Ladder, which played at QPAC from October 24-27, was based on the book by Roger Bennett, and followed the life of young Indigenous man Johnny Malloy and his rise from the post-war boxing tents in the 1950s to become a champion Australian boxer.

The performance was a success with QPAC audiences because of its ability to tell stories of Indigenous hardship in a positive and humorous way.

QPAC producer Lydia Fairhall, who assisted ACPA in creating Up the Ladder, said the production gave ACPA students the opportunity to perform in a professional environment, and to grow and evolve as artists.

“It’s really about giving the students the experience of performing high quality productions with really well-established creative teams, but in our state’s home of leading live performances,” Ms Fairhall said.

Up the Ladder director Wesley Enoch, who is also the artistic director for Queensland Theatre Company, said casting the young Indigenous acting students from ACPA was a great way to show that rising success for Indigenous people did not only take place in stories.

“It’s a really great narrative to be talking about to young people, that if they work hard and have really good skills that they, too, could rise up the ranks to become quite successful.”

“I just wanted to… have the opportunity to work with these young kids and see what their talents are, what their skills are, and with a view that in the near future I might be able to give them work at the Queensland Theatre Company,” he said.

ACPA actor Shakira Clanton, who played Johnny Malloy’s girlfriend Beryl, said the production was inspirational and realistic.

“I like the idea that it’s more about a character achieving their goals that they set for themselves in life and focusing on becoming better,” Ms Clanton said.

“There’s more to them than just this stereotype that’s been labelled to them.”

“It’s a story to be told.

“It’s something that everyone can sit down, regardless of your skin colour, that you can relate to.”

Fellow actor Eliah Watego, who played Johnny’s best friend Sid, said the performance made him feel proud and inspired.

“The Indigenous people of the 1950s… they were handed pretty bad cards and they did everything they could to actually, you know, come out on top,” Mr Watego said.

QPAC has a long relationship of productions with ACPA and said they were looking forward to working on more productions with ACPA in the future.

More information about ACPA performances can be found on the ACPA website,

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