An interview with Christian Leavesley by Alice Fitzgerald

Based in Bendigo, Arena Theatre Company collaborate with young people from the Greater Bendigo region to create their work. Their Artistic Statement says that they believe “children and young people need art that empowers them to imagine what their world is becoming.”

I spoke to their Artistic Director, Christian Leavesley, about the company and heard his thoughts on the arts industry in Central Victoria as a whole.

I understand that Arena Theatre Company makes theatre aimed at audiences aged 5-25. Why do you believe is it important to make theatre for young people?

For me, theatre is all about transformation. Transformation of the world, transformation of the self. Young people are transforming every single day, before our very eyes. Theatre helps young people understand themselves, and the roles they can take in transforming their world.

How does having young people at the centre of your work, as both creators and audience, influence Arena’s theatrical voice?

It’s all about authenticity. To make theatre that speaks powerfully to our young audience, we invest the time and energy to understand their perspectives and lived experiences.

What would you want someone from Melbourne to know about the Central Victorian theatre and arts scene?

Life in Central Victoria is significantly different in some ways to life in Melbourne. It can be easy to imagine that it’s basically the same. But if you take the time to really sit with the art being made in Central Victoria, you can get some fascinating insights into how very different and interesting life can be just an hour or two away.

What other Central Victorian theatre companies or artists do you admire?

Jude Anderson and Punctum do incredible work. I’ve been to a whole swag of Regional Centre for Culture events in the last year, and have been blown away by literally everything – it’s been the most amazing showcase. Close to home, I recently went to see Bendigo Theatre Company’s “Tribe” Youth Company, and they were absolutely brilliant.

What are some projects you are currently showing or working on at Arena that you would like to mention?

Last year’s premiere Robot Song will go on a four month National tour in a couple of months time, including Theatre Works in Melbourne and the prestigious Dream Big Festival in Adelaide. This year’s premiere, Hidden Creature Gallery, will debut at the Castlemaine State Festival – an exciting first for Arena!

Alice works in Development as Partnerships Coordinator at Melbourne Theatre Company. She is also a theatre maker, critic and dramaturg, studying theatre as an undergraduate at Monash University before obtaining her Master’s in Theatre Criticism and Dramaturgy from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London.