By Kaia Wallis
From a humble office in North Adelaide to a brightly lit stage in Shanghai, GWB Entertainment is positioning South Australia as an incubator for artistic talent.
The theatrical production company produces and manages some of the largest productions touring throughout the Asia-Pacific including School of Rock and Matilda the Musical.
Adelaide born directors Richelle and Torben Brookman form half of the creative team behind the business, with their co-director counterparts based in London.
“The Adelaide office allows us to work very strategically in the Asia-Pacific and makes it easier to maintain relationships with those international partners,” Richelle says.
The state’s easy access to an Asian market plays a key role in the company’s global long-term strategy, with Richelle expecting the audience base in these regions to only grow stronger.
“China is a continually growing market in terms of the amount of audiences that have both the financial means and the interest to see the show,” Richelle says.
“While 15 years ago we might have only been able to put on a show in Shanghai or Beijing, we can now tour 20 cities in regional China and those smaller cities still have huge populations that want to see live productions.”
The company’s theatrical take on the popular movie School of Rock – which has recently finished a tour in Shanghai – has been met with roaring success and Richelle says there have been “queues of one hundred people at the stage door for autographs.”
The automation and stage floor for the show is built in SA and the tour will make its way to six cities throughout China over the next few months before seasons in Brisbane, Auckland and Sydney.
The production’s staggered tour dates see it hop between Asia, Australia and New Zealand throughout the tour, a result of SA’s close proximity to other Asia-Pacific countries.
“In Australia it can be really difficult to put together a tour that seamlessly goes from one city to the next, so we’ve worked really hard on establishing our presence and business connections in Asia,” Richelle says.
While GWB’s North Adelaide office has just seven full-time employees – a number Richelle expects to swell in the coming years – each production has around 100 members including, cast, crew and musicians, many of which are from SA.
“We put on these large-scale productions but essentially they are all starting in a very humble office here in Adelaide,” Richelle says.
“The automation and stage floor for School of Rock is being built right here and being in Adelaide we’re constantly trying to be savvier with our designers to make things as durable as we can for travel.
“We’ve also always got our eye on taking our work back to Adelaide.”
GWB Entertainment has announced plans to bring its large-scale production of West Side Story to the local stage later this year, a move Richelle says has been met with excitement from SA theatre fans and one that is indicative of the growing creative scene in Adelaide.
“There’s plenty of great opportunities in Adelaide beyond Mad March so there’s no reason we should only be buying tickets then,” Richelle says.
“But I think people are taking note of this and that it is slowly changing. The response to West Side Story has been absolutely fantastic.
“If you have a successful season with something, other places go ‘there is a market in Adelaide and it’s responding, so we’re going to put on our next big show in Adelaide’.”
Two new local arms of the business have recently started up as well, with GWB Entertainment now managing the Queens Theatre in Adelaide – Australia’s oldest theatre – and opening GWB Studios, a rehearsal space that will also host dance workshops for aspiring SA performers.
While the productions are far reaching, Richelle says GWB Entertainment is an “Adelaide proud” company and hopes to continue growing the local creative industry.
“We’re a young group that strives for excellence in our industry and we can achieve that excellence right out of Adelaide and be recognised for it internationally,” she says.
“Our roots are very much here (in SA), so we’re continuing that commitment to develop the industry here and put SA on the global map.”
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