Sam Foster, performer, The Forwards

You have to be fully present in every moment of the story otherwise you get left behind. Oh, and you have to be fit!

It’s hard to discuss sport in the wake of Queensland’s loss in game one of State of Origin, but our disappointment is a testament to how much we love to play. Australia’s love of sport is dissected in the upcoming production of The Forwards, which is being staged at the Brisbane Powerhouse from June 14–24. The story sees a small town caught up in the rapture of sporting success and how it unravels when other factors come into play. The Forwards is being produced by Shock Therapy Productions, the brainchild of Sam Foster and Hayden Jones – two Gold Coast-based performers who take on the roles of several characters in what is an enlightening and active performance. We spoke to Sam ahead of the show’s arrival about his take on sport in Australia and what we can expect from The Forwards this month.

First of all, I’d love to know about your first performance in front of an audience. What was it about that experience that hooked you on dramatic theatre?
My first ever performance would probably have been playing Scrooge in grade one at primary school. It’s still the highlight of my career! My dad was head of theatre studies at Griffith University for many years, so I’ve always been around theatre and started performing professionally at about 17. I loved – and still love – the sense of teamwork and family that you get from theatre.

You and Hayden performed in various facets of the industry before teaming up to start Shock Therapy Productions. What was the conceptual common ground that you connected on when starting the company?
We had been friends for many years and both admired each other’s work, so I guess that mutual respect and admiration has always been a solid foundation of the company. We were sick of sitting around waiting for other people to provide us with opportunities to do what we loved. We both naturally got to a point in our careers where we wanted to start making our own work and deciding on the types of stories we wanted to tell.

We are very excited about the upcoming production of The Forwards. You are working with the story’s writer Stefo Nantsou on the production – can you tell us about what inspired the story?
As is the case with many of Stefo’s scripts, he often starts with true stories and real people as inspiration. With The Forwards, he went to a number of regional Victorian towns and ran workshops with young people asking them about the types of issues that they had to deal with in their communities. From there he came up with the idea of creating a fictional town called Pintoon where he could paint a picture of the challenges that face regional communities.

Without giving too much away, what can you tell us about the show?
It is a about a small town called Pintoon. The town is buzzing as the local team, the Pintoon Parrots, make it to the Grand Final for the first time ever, under the steam of their three star forwards – Rabbit, Hoges and Tractor. In the lead up to the game, the entire town unites to party hard and celebrate, but tensions boil over in the build up to the big game. The dream team of goal kickers is challenged by a vicious cocktail of grog and jealousy as mateship gives way to anger and violence, leading to some devastating repercussions.

The Forwards deals with the importance of sport and its surrounding culture in small-town Australia. What concepts and topics does the story touch on that really resonate with both of you?
We both grew up playing junior sport and experienced first-hand how sport can unite people and create a strong sense of community, not only in regional communities. We have also both spent a lot of time touring to regional and remote parts of the country and we have seen how sport can provide a positive outlet for people in these communities.

What do you hope audiences take away from the performance?
The show is somewhat of a cautionary tale, a tragicomedy about issues that affect all of us, not just those in regional communities. As we try to do with all of Shock Therapy’s work, we hope that audiences walk away both entertained and moved.

The show requires a lot of physical theatre, multiple characters per actor and even combines elements of live music – what is the hardest part about pulling this show off every night?
A show like this requires the actors to work really hard, both physically and mentally. You can’t afford to get complacent, the show is very unforgiving on that level. You have to be fully present in every moment of the story otherwise you get left behind. Oh, and you have to be fit!

What do you love about the Queensland arts scene at the moment?
Being based on the Gold Coast we have seen a real increase in the quality and quantity of art being produced locally. There has also been a genuine sense of support and trust amongst artists of all disciplines which is really amazing to be part of. It feels like something pretty special is happening down here at the moment. Even though it’s only an hour down the highway it can sometimes be hard to bridge the gap between Brisbane and the Gold Coast but it is happening more now which is a really great step in the right direction.

We love finding out what motivates and drives people! What are you currently finding inspiring about the world around you?
Well, the current state of global politics it’s pretty interesting at the moment. We are living in pretty extreme times and we feel that it’s the job of artists to comment on, challenge and question the world that we live in. As a father I am particularly motivated to tell stories that are thought provoking and deal with questions that affect future generations.

Be sure to catch Shock Therapy’s The Forwards when it is staged at the Brisbane Powerhouse from June 14–24. Purchase your tickets here


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