Tropical Arts is Creating Australia

On a mission to show what an inclusive community can look like.

Tropical Theatre image

Witches – image by Eve Stafford

On Halloween past, Tropical Arts wrapped up our 2015 season of Shakespeare at the Tanks with our epic reimagining of Macbeth. I say epic because of the cast, the crew and the process. Our inclusive brand of theatre finds pathways for everyone onto stage and means that we produce a richly diverse picture of humanity.

This year our witches ensemble was a standout for audiences. 18 women from 10 years old to 77, were organised into 3 covens. The witches spoke in chorus and revolved around three Deaf witches who signed in Auslan. Chants, spells and incantations were signed by all witches in dancelike patterns and the witches infected the whole play, led by Hecate, conjuring daggers, infecting minds and raising the corpses of Macbeth’s slaughter.

Auslan featured heavily in this production. This year we had 6 Deaf actors. Characters Ross and Angus had Squires who carried their armour and voiced for the benefit of the hearing. An Old Man and the Armourer Seyton swapped between sign and voice translation.

There were also 4 Auslan Interpreters. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth were doubled by Shadow Interpreters who wove a psychological frame around the. The pairs seamlessly merged to chilling effect. Two further Interpreters, sometimes as shadows and sometimes from side of stage signed Auslan for up to10 characters each.

There were also 8 performers from ARC Disability Services who were integrated into the cast as Murderers, Witches, Donalbain and Soldiers. These disciplined actors delivered lines and held the patterns of the play. They were not separate nor given special treatment, but were actors in their own right as they had chosen to be – valued for their performance and worked hard like everyone, as a team sweating out the tragedy in the rising heat of Far North Queensland.

Tank 3, at Tanks Arts Centre is a non-traditional, non-air-conditioned theatre space in the making, nestled in the rainforest on the side of a mountain.

This year our local RADF funded a Design Project which ran alongside the rehearsals and engaged over 40 participants in the design and making of the costume, props and set for the play under the tutelage of 3 Design Mentors. We are part of our local community and represent it in all its diversity: cultural, gender, age, ability, experience, socio-economic range, skills, interests and more – we are on a mission to show what an inclusive community can look like.

Avril Duck is the Artistic Director of Tropical Arts Association Inc – a community led theatre group in Cairns.


Witches. Image by Eve Stafford. L-R:  Gaiyl Kingi, Antionette James, Viakura Maurangi, Pam Wong Hoy, Jaida Crossman, Alicia Jamieson (Hecate), Aine Radford, Georgia Alderton, Leilei Little, Christine Macintosh.