Developed in residence at La Boite, Brothers Book Club is a new, original work from the Mamas Boys Collective under the direction of theatre makers Claire Christian and Ari Palani.
We partnered with La Boite, Brisbane Festival and the Melbourne Arts Centre to commission this new work as part of our support for Australian creatives and our desire to bring great work to the Gold Coast.
The world premiere of this work was due to take place at Brisbane Festival 2020 but when the pandemic forced a change of plans we were thrilled to have the chance to bring a reading of this new work to Gold Coast audiences as part of our Fireside program.
The Mamas Boys are a collective of male-identifying emerging artists, all from Logan.
Director Claire Christian told us:
‘We all met in 2014 through Queensland Theatre’s youth arts program TRACTION, which was run in Logan, and was about bringing young people who were passionate about the arts together to make work. In 2017 the twelve boys and I started working on a play through the support of SunPac, as we wanted to write something that represented Logan, and culturally diverse young men. We were sick of reading plays and seeing theatre that didn’t really feel like our unique group, or that didn’t have characters who were navigating what the boys were navigating. We have multiple different faiths, cultures, languages and experiences represented in just our small group - when you grow up in a community like Logan, you’re used to seeing the world represented this way - but this isn’t how art is often represented in Australia.’
The Mamas Boys are Hosanna Alo Aloalii, Jordan Brexler, Filo Des Lesā, Ethan Enoch-Barlow, PJ Ieremia, Peter Hakiza Irankunda, Shan Lennar Aniel Jacobe, Damon Jackson, Jessie Men, Keavong Alson Men, Joshua Ratahi and Abdul Salman.
Traversing theatre, hip hop, poetry, and the boys’ imaginings of classic texts, Brothers Book Club is as inspirational as it is hilarious and unflinchingly honest.
‘(It’s) a wild amalgamation of theatre, hip hop, poetry, comedy, beats, classic stories like To Kill A Mockingbird and Moby Dick told with a Logan flair. It is a play about faith, culture, brotherhood, romance all swished about into a wild story book joy filled party where the Mama’s Boys will welcome you into their family,’ Claire said.
Once a month, the boys meet at Book Club to discuss, study, help (and roast) one another. Through the books they read, they learn about themselves as individuals, as men, and as a brotherhood.
‘There is a rare and joyous thing that happens when young people see other young people telling alive, relevant and important stories about young people on stage. It rarely happens. It’s an added layer of connection - because it’s about representation. It’s a powerful thing to watch something and thing, this is for me, it is about me, it was made by people like me. Whilst Brothers Book Club is about young people in school, it’s about bigger questions about who we are as people, as children, as school students, as friends, as people with dreams, who have may have been told there’s no way they’ll come true.
‘It’s about the smashing of colonised theatre as we see it - it’s about defying the expectations of what a theatrical experience should be or can be. The Mama’s Boys are about doing things on their own terms and making theatre that combines all of their loves and passions, to tell a story that they think is important,’ said Claire.
PJ Ieremia, one of the collective, added: ‘Logan has always been negatively portrayed by the media, and though we might have had our moments in our community, this right here is one of our highlights, and I believe this story reflects what’s going on in our schools and in our young people, not only in Brisbane, but ultimately in young people all over the world, that though our women are speaking out, which is so crucial in our society but we also tend to forget that boys and men are just as important, that it’s ok to speak out, that it’s not weak to be vulnerable and be yourself, and I feel that’s what our story directly covers,’
Agreeing, Jordan Brexler continued: ‘In all honesty, young men have it pretty damn rough. The world expects us to act a certain way and expressing any form of emotion or vulnerability is constantly met with “man up” or “don’t be a pussy”. The group with the highest suicide rate is young men and it’s scary because it feels like nothing is being done to change this. Book Club highlights the fact that young men can struggle with things and feel complex emotions, and that it’s completely okay to be unsure of yourself. At the end of the day we’re all human.’
Ethan Enoch-Barlow sees a great opportunity to share a new perspective with audiences: ‘This show is an opportunity for audiences to experience a story with unique perspectives that rarely get represented on the main stage. It’s a chance for the youth of Logan City who resonate with this story to have their voice heard and their stories told through young people for young people. Brother’s Book Club aims to excite with bombastic rhymes, hilarious yarns and, genuine love between brothers.’