16 October 2022 / Grants and Awards

A New Moon Over Queensland

In 2017 The Society for Theatre Research awarded Professor Ruth Bereson and Dr Justin Macdonnell a significant proportion of the Paul Iles’ Bequest.

Paul spent 12 years working in Australia, first as general manager of the State Theatre Company at the Adelaide Festival Centre, then as founding producer of the North Queensland Theatre Company, and later as general manager and director of Nimrod Theatre in Sydney. He had learned his trade at a variety of repertory theatres in the UK in the early seventies and on returning home continued his career as general manager of the Grand Theatre, Blackpool and later the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh. He subsequently became a much-respected and sought after theatrical consultant.

When he died, at the age of 59, he left £10,000 to the Society for Theatre Research to be used specifically for research awards in the area of Australian theatre. It was anticipated that the research would concern itself with those companies with which Paul Iles was closely associated. There was indeed a paucity in the literature as the researchers discovered that the Far North Queensland New Moon Theatre Company, though having had a significant impact on the region and its audiences and the wider Australian theatre public, had not as yet been thoroughly researched nor written up. The Bequest enabled interviews to be undertaken across Australia as well as significant time in the rich archives of the James Cook University’s Mabo Library Special Collections. The support enabled this singular story to be pieced together and to form its rightful place in the literature.

What ensued is a history of a unique part of Australian Theatrical History. The result is a colourful tale of adventure, enterprise, entertainment and finally defeat. The book’s title Pleasure Tested for the Tropics taken from New Moon’s suggestive slogan, perhaps sums up the tale best of all.

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