After being blown away by Belvoir’s 1995 production of Hamlet starring Richard Roxburgh and Jacqueline Mackenzie, Richard Rasker and his partner immediately signed up as subscribers, and haven’t looked back since. “I remember it didn’t conclude until 12.30am and it really blew our minds,” Rasker recalls.
Two decades on from that unforgettable evening and Rasker has enjoyed many more memorable nights at Belvoir as a subscriber. Ask him to pin down a favourite production, and Rasker lists Cloudstreet, Stuff Happens, Measure for Measure, The Wild Duck, Angels in America and The Government Inspector. Just one though? “I’d probably pick Keating!,” Rasker concedes. “So unique, funny and brilliantly conceived and executed.”
For Rasker, the reason for subscribing is simple: ensuring he doesn’t miss that life-altering show. “One cannot always predict which are the average, good or great productions,” Rasker says. “Subscribing make you commit to seeing a certain number of productions a year and ensure you don’t miss out when every so often a night happens that is so innovative, so magnificent, so powerful and such a wonderful night of entertainment, that it makes you want to scream out and just say wow.”
Rasker didn’t want his daughter to miss out on one of those indelible nights either, and was keen to sign her up as a subscriber as soon as she was old enough. “Rachel is now 18, a subscriber and indeed a playwright. Her first play was produced and performed this year by Ryde Youth Theatre – all inspired by her experiences at Belvoir.”
So, what’s the most anticipated 2017 production in the Rasker household? “I’d have to say Mr Burns – the concept and link to The Simpsons sounds amazing and the whole family are keen to see this one!”
Someone a little newer to the subscribing family is Christine Brown, a former Sydneysider who has since retired in Kurri Kurri, a town about 40 kilometres from Newcastle. It’s close enough to “have easy access to Sydney for Belvoir – and the grandkids!”
Christine became a subscriber in 2015, and there are plenty of reasons why she thinks it’s worthwhile. “Having a subscription means I know my appetite for theatre, and for Belvoir, will be satiated. There’s a monetary advantage. Even though it takes me some time to work out my dates, then I don’t have to think about it for a year. There’s the ability to alter my selection. They’re good seats… although all seats at Belvoir are good. And I love saying I am a subscriber. Would you call it status?!”
Though retired, Christine travels every year to Katherine in the Northern Territory to volunteer for a term at a school with 90% Indigenous enrollment. Her experience there has enhanced her appetite for Indigenous theatre, and thus she counts Which Way Home and Barbara and the Camp Dogs as her most anticipated productions in 2017. “Indigenous people have so many stories to tell and such a powerful way of telling them,” Christine says. “I believe the theatre is a marvellous medium for getting these stories out.”
Chris Ernst and her husband Bob have been attending the theatre on Belvoir St since the 1980s, back when it was the Nimrod theatre. “Bob remembers the first show he saw then, Tom Stoppard’s Jumpers. It wasn’t the nudity, almost imperative at that time, that impressed but the performance of John Gaden, fully clothed, that really stuck in his mind and left the impression of that venue as a place for great theatre.”
The couple moved overseas to work, but returned in the mid-nineties “seeking adventurous theatre” and became Belvoir subscribers in 2000. “We believe that Eamon Flack continues the Belvoir tradition of telling stories that are relevant to us in Australia now,” Chris says. “It is rare that a play does not cause us to reflect on the story and its implications. Sometimes that can be a challenge and having the script included in the program is a welcome assistance. Meeting the challenge of a play can be personally rewarding.”
Additionally, Chris and Bob love the sense of family that comes with subscribing. “The people we meet, whether other subscribers, Belvoir staff, artists and performers, or those we meet casually in the foyer form a sort of community that enriches our lives.”
When talking about their favourite Belvoir memories, it’s moments and encounters as much as productions. “Right now with The Drover’s Wife still echoing in our minds, it would be easy to nominate that play [as a favourite],” Chris says. “But outside of being an audience, there are small things like talking to Pacharo Mzembe after Gwen in Purgatory, and Leah Purcell and Nikki Shiels this year that remain in our minds.”
And their hot pick for 2017? “That’s a hard one. We love Lally Katz and, while our familiarity with Mark Colvin on the ABC may not be relevant to the play, we look forward to Mark Colvin’s Kidney. Prior to seeing I’m Your Man in 2012 we generally thought ‘Boxing… Yuk!’, but that play was great so we are now keen to see Prize Fighter. But the simple answer to your question is: All Of Them.”
Belvoir subscriptions for 2017 are now available to book and you can find more information here.