Performance review: GRIT, Perseverance Street Studio, Queensland

Captivating songs and stories about regional towns.
GRIT. Image is four young people on a stage against a black backdrop. A man at the front has a mic and is shielding his eyes from the light with his hand. Behind him two woman are also singing into mics, while a third woman is closer to the front sitting on a seat with crossed legs and lacing her fingers around her knee.

Small towns across regional Queensland are epicentres of Australian stoicism. No matter which one you hail from, the struggles and joys are similar. Some see their hometown as an inescapable hole, while others flee the city looking for a slower-paced tree change. After a sold-out 2022 debut season in Gympie, GRIT: The Stories, The Town, The Music by fledgling Perseverance Street Theatre Company, is back dazzling audiences again with a fresh remounted version.

Hitting the road on a five-show local halls tour around the Wide Bay area back in February this year, the show travelled up the east coast of Queensland to perform in Rockhampton and Townsville before arriving in Cairns. To tie in the themes of the show to each location, GRIT creatives sourced a regional writer to develop monologues from their community.

From the start, the audience felt a warm sincerity as they were welcomed by Fletcher Colfs. A local actor from Gympie, Colfs played GRIT’s storyteller, who ended up morphing into myriad small town character types throughout the performance. On stage alongside the storyteller were vocalists Sarah Harvey and Abby Bowyer, whose voices blended harmoniously with that of Ben Adams. 

Before the Cairns show began, the audience were treated to two monologues, one written by Daniel Bateman that focused on the flood that preceded recent cyclone Jasper that explained what it was like to have your house inundated, only to be rescued by the SES. The second monologue written by Kathryn Ash from JUTE Theatre Company, was about the community clean-up effort affectionately called “the mud army” who were marshalled together after the flood waters subsided.

A simplistic set centrepiece of a quintessential clothesline strung with washing, sat seemingly idle. This clothesline, however, was effortlessly used to link the stories of the six characters, grounding the viewer in memories of earlier life and childhood.

The cast wore basic clothing of the sort that people in small towns wear to not stand out. But this also served the purpose of streamlining onstage costume changes. By simply accessorising with a hair tie or a plaid shirt, Fletcher changed between characters with the dexterity and poise of an established actor rather than the up-and-coming talent he is. 

Props were all ensconced on the set prior to curtain up, readily at hand to aid the performers in the storytelling without cluttering the stage – every prop cleverly revealed at the right time and returned without breaking stride and the show’s illusion.

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Poignantly written songs punctuated the performance, elevating the audience’s enjoyment from stage play to an immersive theatre experience. Each chapter of the narrative produced a song to fit that specific character, with two in particular receiving equally enthusiastic applause: ‘This Town of Mine’ for its deep and resonant meaning and ‘It Is As It Is’ for the humorously cynical lyrics. 

GRIT was unashamedly a regional storybook, one that focused on the people and not the postcode. The resilience of spirit shone brightest among the backdrop of those too often forgotten about parts of this sunburnt country. If you’re looking for a word to sum up these fair dinkum battlers, the only one that comes to mind is “grit”.                                                             

Perseverance Street Studio
Director: Dr Sharon Hogan
Dramaturg: Sofia Abbey
Composer/Sound Design: Alex Harvey
Tour Manager/Technical Operator: Jonas White
Cast: Fletcher Colfs, Ben Adams, Sarah Harvey, Abby Bowyer

GRIT was performed from 20-27 March 2024

Douglas Robins is an Arts worker in far north Queensland, is fanatical about theatre and believes theatre should always be inclusive to all. He completed a B.A. in Theatre and English at James Cook University, Cairns in 2011. An author of short plays and theatre reviews, an actor, director and president of community theatre company Tropical Arts Inc.