Kathryn Ash‘s Bag O’ Marbles as a script is one of perseverance. It took years of work for this regional show to get its big city moment. The play is an example not just of excellent regional theatre, but Australia’s national identity.
Stanley has dominated the hostile landscape of his outback farm and his family for over 50 years. His youngest daughter, Samantha, returns for a family celebration after many years of living in the city and, amid the squabbling of chooks and howling of dogs, plans to plant her feet firmly in protest of the past. But how clearly does she see the past, and what subtle, hushed tragedies has she overlooked?
With ironic humour, insight and toughness, Kathryn Ash paints a vivid picture of a quintessentially Australian family. Originally developed by Just Us Theatre Ensemble in Cairns, Bag O’ Marbles is not simply regional theatre at its best, it is a fine example of contemporary Australian drama.
Kathryn Ash first started writing the stories seen in Bag O’ Marbles when she had moved to Cairns in 1991 during long, quiet evenings. She drew on the stark contrast between life in Sydney, and her memories of growing up in Goondiwindi.
In 1992 Kathryn founded JUTE theatre company (Just Us Theatre Ensemble) with Suellen Maunder and Susan Prince. It was the first professional theatre company in Cairns. The company focused on creating and fostering regional work, and encouraged Kathryn to adapt her stories for the stage. Years after it’s first production, Kathryn was still being approached by locals about the ways the play had effected them.
“This publication, together with the co-production with the Queensland Theatre Company [Now QT] is a clear indication of the value of regional companies and the contribution they have to make to the voice of Australian theatre,” – Suellen Maunder, 2002.
Bag O’ Marbles was first staged on 31 May 1994, by Just Us Theatre Ensemble (JUTE) in Cairns. After further development, Bag O’ Marbles was presented as a co-production by the Queensland Theatre Company and Just Us Theatre Ensemble, opening on Thursday, 28 March 2002