Local theatre banished – for now

Chantelle Gourlay as Little Red Riding Hood outside the Potato Shed. (Ivan Kemp) 250439_01

By Luke Voogt

The Big Bad Wolf and Little Riding Red Hood have been banished from the Potato Shed amid COVID-19 restrictions.

But the beloved children’s characters are set to return this summer to explore and prowl the Shed.

The children’s play is one of several shows that the venue rescheduled after Geelong went back into lockdown this week.

“It’s probably for the best rather than rushing and not making it the best it could be,” said Clifton Springs actress Chantelle Gourlay, who plays the title role of Little Red Riding Hood.

“I’m so excited to do it when it’s safer for everyone.”

The 23-year-old had hoped to return to the stage in the production after a four-year break to study a bachelor (and honours) in creative writing after finishing high school.

She took the course to broaden her skills but said acting had always been her first love.

“Acting can be a very difficult field to get into,” she explained.

“I’m glad I did that but now I’m like, ‘I need to go back and do what I enjoy and give studying a bit of a break’.”

Gourlay admitted she chose a challenging time to get back into theatre.

“When I was talking about it with a friend they said, ‘are you crazy?’” she said.

But she said the pandemic had also opened up new ways of creating theatre, like livestreams and outdoor shows.

Organisers had initially planned to hold several productions of Little Red Riding Hood beginning next Tuesday on the Potato Shed’s outdoor stage, purpose-built for the pandemic.

Now set for the summer school holidays, the play could take place either inside or outside, based on restrictions and weather.

“I’ve never done an outdoor show before – it would be really interesting to see how it works,” Gourlay said.

And children’s plays are the perfect testing ground for the young actress.

“The goal is to do bigger musical theatre productions,” she said.

“But I really like interacting with the kids because they’re always funny and they make me laugh.

“If you break character to laugh, you can kind of cover it up, because it’s a bit over-the-top anyway.

“The kids will yell out and they give you something to work with.

“So it’s really good to practice if something unexpected happens: how do you deal with that while remaining in character?

“And if they like you, or don’t, they will tell you.”

Gourlay had a role in a local children’s production of The Emperor’s New Clothes in 2015 before her hiatus from acting.

“A lot of children’s plays have music in them and they’re very over-the-top and theatrical,” she said.

“I always seem to be playing a fairytale character, which I love. I think I just like being a big kid to be honest.”

In a twist on the original Little Red Riding Hood, the wolf might not be the villain they appear to be, Gourlay hinted.

“It’s a lot more child-friendly than the original. It’s not going to traumatise any two-year-olds,” she said.

Gourlay had just restarted rehearsals last week before Geelong went into its latest lockdown.

But despite the postponement, she said her love of theatre remained and she looked forward to performing this summer instead.

“I can already see how happy it makes me to be onstage.”

Potato Shed manager Rob MacLeod this week confirmed the venue had postponed several productions until summer.

“It’s sad but we need to follow the guidelines,” he said.

Sing a Song of Sixpence has moved from October 8 to February 6, 2022, while Dahlin’ – The Jeanne Little Show, Colin Mockett’s History of Rock and Roll and Peter Sullivan Does Elton and Liberace have also been postponed until next year, with dates to be confirmed.

But MacLeod said the Shed had begun planning in hope of resuming performances in November.

He encouraged locals to visit geelongaustralia.com.au/potatoshed online and check the Independent for updates.

“We’re going to bounce back with new and exciting shows and activities for everyone to help them through this tough time,” he said.