Reedy River rollicks into Redland Museum

Reedy River returns to the Redland Museum for its Australia Day production with performances from January 23 to February 2.

The performance commemorates the legacy of Theatre Genesis founder Terry Annesley, who died in 2014. It was last performed at the museum in 2008.

This year's production is being directed by Jan Nary who has performed in many of the productions to date.

"It's a great show with a new cast, some of whom are new to the stage. This is in keeping with Terry's passion for nurturing and handing on Australian language, traditions and songs through the magic of theatre. We hope that this production pays full honour to Terry's work," Jan said.

Reedy River represents a pivotal episode of Australian union history and is being presented as a dinner show at the museum.

Set in the turbulent era after the great shearers' strike of the 1890s, Reedy River is a rollicking bush musical portraying a way of life and an ethos that is still seen as essentially Australian; battling hardship, playing square, putting up with your mates and sticking by them and maintaining a wry sense of humour throughout.

Written by Dick Diamond in 1953, Reedy River is designed as a vehicle for the songs of the Australian bush, set in a major part of Australian history. The late Johnny Meredith spent years travelling the outback to collect and record the songs from old-timers who still remembered them. Even classics such as Click Go the Shears had almost faded into oblivion.

The score includes Henry Lawson's Reedy River, set to music by the late Chris Kempster and the stirring Ballad of 1891, by Dorothy Bridges and the late Helen Palmer.

Playing Joe as the lead shearer is David Jacob, of Capalaba, with the leading role of Mary played by Sharon Vassallou, of Birkdale. Elise O'Brien, of Cleveland, plays school teacher Miss Anderson, Debbie Spearrit, of Birkdale, plays Rose the barmaid and a role has been created for her daughter, Hannah, 10, playing fiddle. Musical director is Vicky MacDonald.

The production is bing performed on January 23, 24, 25, 26, 30, 31 and February 1 and 2. Doors open at 6.30pm with the meal served at 7pm. Tickets are $35 and can be booked on 3286 3499, www.redland museum.org.au

"Dick Diamond set the songs in the period of the aftermath of the great shearers' strike of 1891. Despite a booming wool industry at the end of the 19th century, conditions in the shearing sheds were appalling, which led to a rapid rise in union membership," Jan said.

In the 1890s there was a sudden drop in the prices and profits of Australian commodities - including wool. Wealthy graziers sought to protect their profits by lowering the shearers' hard-won conditions and wages.

"The ensuing national strike saw an all-out confrontation with the unions culminating in 2000 troops with Gatling guns and 1100 special constables being sent in to break the strike. Several strikers were killed, 14 union leaders were arrested, put in chains, tried and gaoled - and the sheds were left in disarray."