Treetop theatre honoured at Castlemaine State Festival 

A locally produced piece of theatre set in the treetops of Vaughan Springs Reserve has won the Castlemaine State Festival’s George Fairfax New Theatre Award.

Dan Mitchell’s play The republic of trees: a tale between Earth and sky is based on an Italo Calvino novel about a boy who leaves his home and lives in the trees.

“I was given the book by my brother at 18 and it’s been with me ever since,” Mr Mitchell said.

“It’s a universal story in its tale of coming of age, (taking) a principled stand against the adult world. I’ve always wanted to do a live version of the work in a treescape.”

The play will be presented as part of the Castlemaine Festival in March, a world premiere.

Mr Mitchell – an experienced director, producer and performer – had been developing the concept for 20 years.

He said staging a piece of theatre among foliage was not an easy pitch.

“I have trouble convincing people it is doable, but I work in an area where you do the impossible,” he said.

“The challenge is communicating a narrative, but it’s a relatively simple and powerful story.”

The show will be promenade- style with the audience following the story through the landscape.

“The audience will have to come ready for an adventure,” Mr Mitchell said.

“The show will start at sunset and finish in the dark. It’s going to be very elemental.”

With a piece like this, finding the right setting was key.

Luckily Mr Mitchell struck upon the perfect place right in his new hometown of Vaughan Springs.

“We have this wonderful setting of the arboretum in Vaughan Springs and the acoustics of the gorge where the Loddon powers through,” he said.

“I’m adapting it for the site, tapping into the possibilities of its Australianness.

“We’re so used to black box version of theatre but that lacks an element of surprise.

“I like making the audience a little uncomfortable, forced audience participation, it doesn’t come to them they have to get involved.”

Mr Mitchell said having his show premiere through the festival was a great opportunity.

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