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The 35-year-old from Perth is a composer,
poet, short fiction writer, comedian
and, for all we know, an accomplished
ventriloquist. His musical adaptation of
Roald Dahl’s classic Matilda is tipped to open
in London’s West End this year. Now living
in London, he graduated from the academy’s
Conservatorium of Music and remembers his
student days as both rigorous and playful.
“Many of my friends were in the musical
theatre program, and I spent most of my
time hanging out in and around the WAAPA
studios, which was great fun,” he says.
His training was technically challenging.
“At the time I felt it was a bit stifling to
creativity, but I realise there are things
I do now that would be impossible if I hadn’t
had that strict training.”
He occasionally despaired at the talent on
display. “I did a contemporary music course,
and across the hall you’d hear these jazz
students, and you’d just want to give up,” he
laughs. “They were so good they’d make you
depressed. The quality of jazz that comes
out of WAAPA is bloody extraordinary, and
the number of jazz legends from Perth, per
capita, is... stupid. There’s Graham Blevins,
Matt Jodrell, Jamie Oehlers – incredible
players. That’s what I find incredible – the
quality of musicians that place produces”.
unwilling to pit one academy ag ainst the other
but acknowledges the scope of opportunity
at WAAPA. “We have a music and dance
school, as well as the traditional disciplines
of a theatre and performance academy, such
as lighting, sound, set design, costume, arts
manag ement, and broadcasting.”
Coincidentally, NIDA has recently added new
courses to its curriculum. While it remains the
pre-eminent acting academy, the national school
doesn’t match WAAPA’s sweeping influence
within Australian performance studies. With 60-70
full-time and 200 sessional staff, 1000 students and
more than 300 performances per year, WAAPA is
a tightly run ship. The sheer number and quality
of graduates produced belies its isolated location.
It’s the finest academy in the country, at the
greatest distance from other major cities, says
Professor Warn. Many of its artists-in-residence
and experts must be brought from interstate or
overseas, which is costly, she adds.
Despite the tyranny of distance, the academy’s
reputation for excellence has helped secure some
Hugh Jackman on stage
in his WAAPA days.
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